FEMA sends refrigerated trucks to New York City to hold bodies

The FEMA building John Shinkle / POLITICO

FEMA sends refrigerated trucks to New York City to serve as a temporary morgue as the death toll from the corona virus increases.

In Queens in particular there is a “desperate need” for morgues, said FEMA regional administrator Thomas Von Essen on Monday. The district has the most coronavirus cases in the city, and Elmhurst Hospital has been flooded with seriously ill patients.


“We’ll have a lot of people who won’t make it,” said Von Essen at a press conference with Mayor Bill de Blasio when they welcomed the USNS Comfort hospital ship into the city.

By Monday morning, 790 people in the city had died from the effects of the corona virus. There are 36,221 confirmed cases.

As POLITICO previously reported, the Department of Homeland Security has been informed that the regular morgues in New York are almost full.

“We are sending refrigerated trucks to New York to temporarily help with some issues,” said Von Essen on Monday. “We in New York City are in dire need of help in Queens, and we’re working on it as we speak.”

The military has sent 42 employees to the medical examiner’s office in Manhattan to participate in the effort, he said.

A temporary mortuary has already been set up in a tent near the Bellevue Hospital.

Von Essen, a former FDNY commissioner, however ruled out having to turn public arenas like Madison Square Garden into makeshift morgues. “Fortunately, we don’t think of anything like that,” he said.

He said the authorities are working to send more military teams to New York to support the growing number of bodies while helping other locations across the country whose morgues may also be buckled up.

“It is difficult, but everyone is trying and we will get more help for New York here,” he said.

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