Faced with rising deaths from COVID-19, Oregon will store bodies in trucks

Due to the rapid increase in deaths from COVID-19 in some of its counties, Oregon has organized the delivery of a refrigerated truck to store the bodies and decided to send another, the state department of emergency management reported Saturday.

To date, Tillamook County, on Oregon’s northwest coast, and Josephine County, in the southwest, have ordered the trucks, said Bobbi Doan, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.

Tillamook County Emergency Director Gordon McCraw wrote in his request to the state that the county’s only funeral home “is now continuously at or over capacity” of nine bodies.

“Due to COVID cases among staff, there have been no transfers for storage to nearby counties,” McGraw noted. Suicides are also on the rise in the county, he added.

The refrigerated truck arrived in the county on Friday, on loan from Klamath County, Doan said in a telephone interview.

The Tillamook County Board of Commissioners warned Friday that the spread of COVID-19 “has reached a critical phase.”

In a statement released on the Tillamook County Pioneer digital publication, commissioners said that from August 18 to 23, there were six new deaths from COVID-19 in the county, a number that exceeds the five deaths recorded in the first 18 months of the pandemic.

“In the past week, we more than doubled the number of COVID deaths in Tillamook County, from five to eleven,” wrote Commissioners Mary Faith Bell, David Yamamoto, and Erin Skaar. The commissioners implored the residents: “please get vaccinated.”

The petition comes as the delta variant of the coronavirus is wreaking havoc among Oregon’s unvaccinated population.

However, in Josephine County, where the capacity of hospitals has been exceeded and morgues are reaching their maximum capacity, the vaccination rate is only 53%, according to statistics from the Health Authority of Oregon.

The vast majority of COVID-19 patients that are overwhelming hospitals and intensive care units in the state are not vaccinated.

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