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Pima County to store overflow dead bodies as funeral backlog grows

With coronavirus restrictions causing a slowdown in funeral services, Pima County is stepping in to help local mortuaries and hospitals with storing human remains.

The county has space for about 150 bodies above its usual daily requirements, and will work with local funeral providers to store bodies awaiting services.

County officials said that the need "to provide relief for some hospitals and funeral homes is not associated with any known surge of COVID-19-related deaths."

Instead, there are "backlogs in the funeral industry" as social/physical distancing regulations and limits on travel have meant it is harder for families to hold funeral services.

"Capacity has gradually become more of an issue over the past couple of weeks in Pima County, which can mostly be attributed to a slowdown in the funerary process amid the COVID-19 pandemic," officials said.

"The remains of those decedents who will be stored with the Office of the Medical Examiner may include some who have died from COVID-19 but not all are pandemic victims," officials said.

County officials do not anticipate long-term storage of remains will be necessary.

The county has excess storage capacity for bodies as a function of the work the Medical Examiner does to identify and repatriate the remains of deceased migrants.

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PCOME has morgue space within Banner's University Medical Center South (the former Kino Hospital), and in the Medical Examiner's smaller adjacent building. The agency has also at times used a refrigerator truck for overflow space.

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Jul 12, 2020, 6:28 pm
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(sung to the tune of
Youtube: “Shia LaBeouf” Live - Rob Cantor

Jul 12, 2020, 3:23 pm
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Jul 11, 2020, 3:12 pm
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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

A file photo of bodies stored at the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner, October 2016.