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OpinionColumnistsRita Ciolli

Area hospitals face a grim reality

A sign for Stony Brook University is pictured

A sign for Stony Brook University is pictured on March 1, 2018. Credit: Barry Sloan

As Long Island hospitals ramp up for the highest wave of COVID-19 patients, and temporary facilities to increase the number of beds are built at SUNY locations in Old Westbury and Stony Brook, a grimmer reality is shaping up:

What to do with the bodies pending their pickup by funeral homes?

Nassau County, which is expected to be hit hard, has an existing capacity for 150 corpses at its medical examiner’s headquarters. Additionally, each of the county’s 11 hospitals have their own morgues that can store a total of 286 bodies. But county officials fear that won’t be enough, a concern echoed by other local officials on an operational FEMA call Sunday afternoon. Nassau rented five FEMA refrigerated trucks that can hold 48 bodies each. Two have arrived and are in use.

In Suffolk, the medical examiner can store 71 bodies in its facility and another 16 in its portable truck unit. The county has rented one FEMA refrigerated truck to add an additional 48 slots, and has requested a similar refrigerated vehicle from the state. There is an additional morgue capacity for 130 bodies at Suffolk’s hospitals.

Grim numbers for grim times.

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