Chicago opens refrigerated warehouse to hold more than 2,000 bodies

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The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office in Chicago announced the opening of its surge center Thursday to expand capacity and ease overcrowding at hospital morgues due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 66,000-square foot refrigerated warehouse will have the capacity to hold more than 2,000 bodies, according to a release from the county.

“While my hope is that we have made plans that we will not have to utilize, I realize that my administration has a responsibility to prepare for a surge in deaths due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “We are working diligently to ensure that the victims of this virus are treated with dignity while under our care.”

The county has also acquired 14 refrigerated trailers and is in the process of securing six more to support the surge center. The trailers will be prepositioned at hospitals that are experiencing surges so their morgues are not overwhelmed.

In a statement Thursday, the Medical Examiner’s Office said they plan to scale up their existing case management system to accommodate the caseload at the surge center.

“We are the last physicians these individuals will ever have and we take that responsibility very seriously,” said Cook County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Ponni Arunkumar. “We treat these patients with dignity and respect. We treat them the way we would want our loved ones to be treated.”

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