Oregon counties order additional trucks to store bodies of patients who die from COVID

Some Oregon hospitals are dealing with so many Covid deaths that they have requested refrigerated trucks to help store those bodies.

Hospitals in Tillamook County, just 70 miles west of Portland, and Josephine County, 300 miles south of the state’s largest city, have both been overwhelmed by patients.

Tillamook, a small county of 26,000 people, has been hit so badly that the total deaths it recorded since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 has doubled in just five days.

Many of the hospitalizations and deaths are among the unvaccinated, as the state deals with the fall out of a Delta variant-fueled summer Covid surge. 

Two Oregon counties, Josephine and Tillamook, have requested refrigerated freezers to help store dead bodies as their hospitals are overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. Pictured: Two Josephine County nurses walk through the emergency department on August 19

Tillamook County had recorded only five COVID-19 deaths from the start of the pandemic in March 2020 to August 2021 – a span of 18 months.

From August 18 to August 23, six deaths were recorded, doubling the total from a year and a half in only six days.

The Tillamook County Board of Commissioners said Friday the spread of COVID-19 ‘has reached a critical phase.’ 

County officials fear the situation will only get worse, and are urging residents to get vaccinated.

The county was averaging five new COVID-19 cases per day at the start of August, but the total has since increased six-fold to 30 cases per day.

Tillamook County Emergency Director Gordon McCraw wrote in his request to the state that the county’s sole funeral home ‘is now consistently at or exceeding their capacity’ of nine bodies.

‘Due to Covid cases of staff, they are unable to transport for storage to adjacent counties,’ he wrote, adding that suicides are also up in the county.

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

The county vaccination rate is 70 percent, either in progress or fully vaccinated.

In Josephine County, where hospitals are overwhelmed and its morgues are also reaching capacity, the vaccination rate is only 53 percent, according to Oregon Health Authority data. 

The vast majority of COVID-19 patients clogging the state’s hospitals and intensive care units are unvaccinated.

Unlike their counterparts in Tillamook County, Josephine County commissioners are not promoting the vaccine.

Jefferson Public Radio reported that in a meeting earlier this month with local health officials, Josephine County Commissioner Herman Baertschiger Jr., a former leader of the minority Republicans in the Oregon Senate, said: ‘I’m not going to hog-tie anybody and give them a vaccination.’ 

During a public meeting, the commissioners repeatedly questioned the efficacy of the vaccines, suggested the surge was caused by Mexican immigrants, and instead promoted unproven medicines, Jefferson Public Radio reported.

The county is over 750 miles from the Mexican border and has a Hispanic population of under seven percent.

Josephine County Emergency Manager Emily Ring asked the state on Tuesday for a refrigerated trailer that could hold ’20-48 cadavers.’

She wrote that the county hospital is daily exceeding its body storage capacity and that the five funeral homes and three crematoriums are ‘at the edge of crisis capacity daily.’    

Oregon does not report daily COVID-19 data, though the weekly case average has increased by 28 percent from 1,820 on August 16 to 2,322 on August 30. 

Governor Kate Brown has ordered residents to wear mandatory face masks while outdoors in public spaces even if vaccinated, making Oregon the first US state to do so.  

Hospitals in Oregon’s neighbor to the north, Washington, are struggling to deal with Covid as well.

The state has nearly 200 patients currently on ventilators and 1,570 patients hospitalized due to the virus, and around 95 percent of patients are unvaccinated.

‘It’s an enormous stress on a health care system to have this many patients with a single diagnosis,’ Cassie Sauer, Washington State Hospital Association CEO told the Seattle Times.

‘This doesn’t happen. … It’s very, very alarming.’   

Washington also does not report COVID-19 cases every day, though the New York Times reports the state’s new daily cases have increased by 17 percent.  

The U.S. is currently averaging around 158,000 new cases every day, the most since the end of January – when the nation was suffering a record case surge.

Growth of cases have begun to slow down over the past week, though the inconsistent reporting of cases from many states has made daily counts impossible.

More than 100,00 hospitalizations are being recorded every day as well, a sharp growth in recent weeks and the first time the country has reached that point since early February.

Deaths have also worryingly increased, from 696 per day to 1,348 per day nationwide, a 93 percent rise. 

A majority of deaths are still among unvaccinated Americans.

Currently in the country, everyone over the age of 12 is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.

More than 72 percent of the eligible population has received at least one shot of a vaccine. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk