Inmates working in El Paso morgue amid surge in coronavirus-related deaths

Several Texas inmates are working in the El Paso County morgue amid a surge in coronavirus-related deaths and a backlog for autopsies.

Chris Acosta, a spokesperson for El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, told The Hill on Monday that inmates are volunteering to work every day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., starting Monday. 

Inmates usually wouldn’t be paid for community work, but “trustees refused to work unless they were compensated,” so they are given $2 per hour, she told The Texas Tribune

The inmates who are assisting at the morgue were convicted on misdemeanor charges and are being held under minimum security. The morgue and hospital are providing these volunteers with personal protective equipment.

Images and video showed the inmates moving the bodies to eight mobile morgues in front of the medical examiner’s office. The assignment is considered temporary as the county waits for the National Guard’s help, Acosta told The Hill. 

As of Sunday, the county has recorded 769 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. About 1,111 patients are currently hospitalized in the county, 300 of whom are in the intensive care unit, according to county statistics

The number of hospitalizations in El Paso County has been on the rise, almost reaching 10 times the count in September, according to the Tribune.

El Paso city and county officials tried to shut down nonessential businesses to prevent the virus from further spreading. 

A state appeals court struck down the closures last week after challenges by local restaurants and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R). 

Tags Coronavirus coronavirus deaths COVID-19 El Paso inmates Morgue morgues Pandemic Prison Texas
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