The Department of Homeland Security was notified that New York City’s morgues are nearing capacity, a federal official and another individual with knowledge of the matter told Politico.
Officials were told that morgues in the city are expected to reach capacity next week, per the briefing. A third person familiar with the situation in New York said that some of the city’s hospital morgues hit capacity over the last seven days. If the available morgue space in New York City fills up as the number of COVID-19 deaths increases, federal help will be available, a former senior administration official said, noting that the George W. Bush administration sent mortuary assistance in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the September 11 attacks.
For now, city officials do not seem especially alarmed. Aja Worthy-Davis, a spokesperson for the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), said concerns about morgue capacity may be unfounded. In Manhattan alone, she said, OCME’s morgue can store up to 900 bodies. The city has a morgue for each of the five boroughs, she said.
Worthy-Davis told the news outlet that the city has the resources to increase capacity “pretty dramatically,” adding that “If you look back at what we did during 9/11, we have the ability to create mobile stations that allow us to house bodies if we run out of space.”
“All hospitals within the city tend to have small morgue spaces, so it’s possible that with the capacity of hospitals in New York City, there may be an expectation … that they’ll run out of morgue space,” she added.
The added pressure on New York City morgues comes as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Big Apple officials are considering closing some streets, along with parks and playgrounds to contain the coronavirus outbreak. As of Wednesday, the state has 30,811 concerned cases.