Florida Hospital System Explains Makeshift Morgue Amid Record COVID Surge

A hospital in Florida has a refrigerated trailer in its parking lot as it continues to deal with a surge in new COVD-19 cases. The trailer has been seen outside the Viera Hospital, the largest hospital in Brevard County, Florida Today reported.

The trailer is similar to those used by hospitals as a makeshift morgue when they did not have enough space in the building during the height of the pandemic last year.

In a statement to Newsweek, Health First explained the presence of the trailer.

"Health First does own and maintain a refrigerated trailer, which has long been parked in its same location at Viera Hospital. We've owned and operated this equipment for nearly two years," spokesperson Lance Skelly said.

"While the trailer can be used as overflow morgue purposes for our four hospitals, it can also be used by our hospitals for many other needs – including during natural disasters, such as hurricanes and tropical storms.

"We've had this trailer in the same location at Viera since last year and the mere presence of this trailer should neither cause alarm nor speculation.

"The ready availability of equipment and supply chain materials is critical to serving our community at all times, and Health First continues to proactively plan and prepare for all situations and scenarios."

According to Florida Today, Health First reported 315 patients with COVID-19 at its four Brevard County hospitals: 133 at Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne; 71 at Palm Bay Hospital; 63 at Viera Hospital; and 48 at Cape Canaveral Hospital in Cocoa Beach.

florida hospital
(File photo) A medic prepares to transfer a patient on a stretcher from an ambulance outside of Emergency at Coral Gables Hospital where Coronavirus patients are treated in Coral Gables near Miami, on July 30, 2020. A refrigerated trailer for use as a possible morgue has been seen outside a Florida hospital dealing with surge of COVID cases. CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP/Getty Images

As the Delta variants spread through the state and the rest of the country, more and more people, especially the unvaccinated, are being hospitalized after suffering severe COVID symptoms.

Health First's Holmes Regional Medical Center and its Palm Bay Hospital previously had to erect tents outside the main buildings in order to help treat new COVID-19 patients outside amid the surge of new cases.

Brevard County Emergency Management Director John Scott warned that the county's three health systems are over capacity, leaving some hospitals to cancel surgeries and convert other rooms into makeshift treatment areas to deal with COVID patients.

"It is imperative that we pull together, we get through this and slow this curve to relieve the stress on our hospital system and our health care system so we can take care of everyone who gets sick," Scott said.

Brevard County Fire Rescue Chief Mark Schollmeyer has also urged residents to only call 911 in an emergency so ambulances can be used to deal with the influx of more severe COVID patients.

"Just being COVID positive but asymptomatic does not always make it a life-threatening emergent condition requiring a trip to the ER," Schollmeyer told Click Orlando.

"We ask people to take advantage of your primary care physician, telemedicine or urgent care and leave emergency room and ambulance trips for those with life-threatening or serious emergencies."

This graph, provided by Statista, shows the percentage of fully vaccinated residents in each state.

Vaccination rates across US
Statistics provided by Statista on August 10 2021 that shows the vaccination rates in states across the U.S. Statista

Update 8/10/21, 1:30 p.m. ET: This article was updated with a statement from Health First. The headline was updated to reflect the new information.