Central Florida Hospitals Forced to Order Mobile Morgues to Deal With COVID Death Overflow

Central Florida hospitals have been forced to order mobile morgues to help deal with the overflow of COVID-19 deaths now that morgues have reached capacity.

For the first time during the coronavirus pandemic, Advent Health has had to order 14 portable morgues to help make room for an additional 168 bodies.

In an email sent to Florida's emergency managers, the hospital system announced it has "begun utilizing rented, refrigerated coolers at 10 of our campuses throughout Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole, & Volusia counties. These coolers are quickly becoming filled also."

Advent Health said it believes its morgues are backed up because of a "slowdown at local funeral homes," which is causing the hospitals to have to hold bodies for longer periods.

"Because this is happening to hospitals throughout the area, we have been in contact with our regional hospital disaster coalitions and a request for assistance has also been forwarded to the Florida Hospital Association," the email read.

Earlier in the pandemic, hospitals had requested assets like the Florida Emergency Mortuary Operations Response System, but those resources are no longer available now that there is no disaster declaration in place.

Florida Hospital Portable Morgue COVID Death
Advent Health's Central Florida division says it is now using rented portable morgues at 10 of its campuses. Above, health care workers inside the Regeneron Clinic at a monoclonal antibody treatment site in Pembroke Pines, Florida, on August 19. Chandan Khanna/AFP

Advent Health said it is not requesting any assets from the state but wants to alert local officials about the morgues' capacities so the problem can be reported up the ladder and "this information isn't a surprise if heard from [others]."

In a statement sent to Newsweek, the hospital system's central Florida division told the portable morgues were being ordered so that staff can be well equipped for the coming weeks—especially since the rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths that have overwhelmed Florida might worsen.

"We have a robust emergency management program, which has allowed us to continue to care for our community during this surge with thorough planning and precautionary measures," Advent Health said. "With the spike of seriously ill patients in our hospitals, it's prudent that we prepare for an increase in deaths and are putting resources in place to provide additional capacity if needed."

On Thursday, Florida reported its largest single-day increase in the death total, 901, since the pandemic began. On average, the state is reporting 227 COVID-19 deaths a day.

Across the state, more than 3,600 people with COVID-19 are occupying beds in intensive care units—the second-highest total in the country.

The Delta variant of the virus, which has fueled the increase in hospitalizations and deaths, has also caused a shift in infected populations.

Doctors across the U.S. have reported they are seeing higher numbers of young people in their hospitals, and the number of pediatric cases is the highest in Florida.