Coroners, funeral homes brace for influx of coronavirus victims

Coroners, funeral homes brace for influx of coronavirus victims
© Getty Images

American coroners and funeral home services say they are prepared to handle a large influx of deaths as the coronavirus makes its way across populated hot spots in the country, according to USA Today.

Coroners in the U.S. are not concerned that the number of deaths will overload the funeral industry or lead to mass burials like Italy, whose health system was so overloaded it resorted to cremation or burying bodies without public gatherings.

"We train for this kind of thing all the time," Gary Watts, 63, president of the International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners, told USA Today.

ADVERTISEMENT

He said the coronavirus could affect all areas of the U.S., but ultimately different regions will have different death peaks at separate times, allowing experts to move from one hard-hit area to the next one.

"It's not all the bodies hitting at once. They would come in overtime, and I think the resources are there to handle that," said Watts.

Doctors expect death rates from COVID-19 to continue to grow in the U.S. before they go back down, with some experts saying the country could see a death toll nearing 1.1 million people, according to the report.

Trump administration officials on Thursday evening pushed back on dire reports that predict 20 percent of the nation could contract the virus. 

The U.S. experiences, on average, 7,450 deaths per day, according to the World Health Organization. 

On Thursday, the U.S. became the country with the largest number of known cases of COVID-19, reporting a total of 82,404 cases and 1,301 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

ADVERTISEMENT

If the death toll from COVID-19 does get to the point were additional help is needed to manage bodies, the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Teams would be called in to aid in storing excess bodies. It would also help conduct autopsies and DNA tests for identification.

If the outbreak worsens, people could be faced with difficult choices over whether to attend or skip funeral services while Americans continue practicing social distancing and self-imposed quarantines

Randy Anderson, a spokesman for the National Funeral Directors Association, told USA Today if the system was overrun, bodies could be buried almost immediately, and delayed services could still happen once social distancing measures are relaxed.