State Watch

Baltimore parking garage turned into morgue for over 200 bodies

A parking garage in Baltimore has been converted into a morgue for more than 200 bodies because of a backlog of autopsies.

Staffing shortages and an increase in deaths — caused by violence, COVID-19 and drug overdoses — are contributing to the backlog of autopsies in Maryland, according to The Washington Post.

Authorities in the state responded to the swelling number of autopsies needed by transforming a Baltimore parking garage into a morgue, according to WUSA9. Bodies are reportedly being stored in refrigerated truck trailers in the garage and a loading dock.

Maryland authorities are paying $30,000 a month to rent the garage, according to WUSA9, citing procurement documents given to the Maryland Board of Public Works.

Mortuary vehicles drove in and out of the facility on Monday, according to WUSA9.

The Maryland Department of Health said it is offering competitive salaries, engaging in direct outreach for jobs and assigning a recruitment specialist to help staff the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, according to WMAR Baltimore.

Additionally, the department has added 21 additional positions to staff, consisting of medical examiners, toxicologists and support employees, according to WMAR.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is also stepping in to help by dispatching two pathologists and two pathology assistants to bolster the office, WMAR noted.

A number of other states are experiencing similar problems in the medical examiner offices, according to the Post, including New Hampshire and Washington state. Several states point to violence, COVID-19 and drug overdoses as drivers of the autopsy backlog.

The backlog in Maryland comes after the state saw a spike in daily COVID-19 cases last month. While the number of daily infections has since come down, the state’s chief medical examiner is warning that the autopsy backlog will likely continue to increase.

Chief Medical Examiner Victor Weedn said he thinks the backlog will reach 300 later in February, according to the Post.

The Hill reached out to Maryland’s Department of Health and Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for more information.

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