Another disturbing sign of COVID-19 surge: Cox adding more morgue storage space

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 6:42 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - With a combined 34 COVID-19 patients dying since Friday at both Cox (19) and Mercy (15), it’s a morbid topic that nobody really wants to talk about.

But the seriousness of the Delta variant surge in the Ozarks is causing the subject to be broached.

It’s not just the treatment facilities that need expanding.

“We have seen an increase in demand for our morgue,” said CoxHealth President and CEO Steve Edwards. “Last year we did expand it and we’re expanding it farther. We actually brought in a portable piece of technology that allows bodies to be cooled in a place outside the morgue. So we have had to expand that because the mortality has gone up so much lately.”

Cox’s current morgue can hold 15 bodies with the additional space holding up to a dozen more.

But with things expected to get worse before they get better, that still may not be enough if the current trends continue.

“We’ve had over 4,000 admissions for COVID and with 539 deaths that means 13-and-a-half percent of our admissions have died,” Edwards pointed out. “When we look in our ICU’s about 40 percent of our patients don’t make it out. So we certainly see the severity of this disease and it does motivate our interest in expressing how severe this disease can be.”

Mercy did not have any numbers available on its morgue limitations.

“We do have a mobile morgue but we have not activated it to this point,” said Brent Hubbard, Mercy’s President and COO. “But we can expand with the mobile morgue if needed. Hopefully we won’t have to. But over the last four days we’ve had 15 deaths (at Mercy) which is a concerning number. That death toll is leading to our patients’ family, friends and neighbors creating a very difficult situation. It’s also creating a very difficult situation for our work force.”

The victims ages are getting younger and younger (four recent deaths were two people in their 30′s and two in their 40′s) and virtually all are not vaccinated.

“Please make the time to get your vaccine,” Hubbard pleaded. “Please spare your family the heartbreak we’re seeing in our hallways every day.”

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