McLean County has had additional morgue space since the start of the pandemic, but Coroner Kathy Yoder said the county has only needed it once.
Yoder said the county has secured the refrigerated trailer from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) in March.
“It was a proactive approach, rather than a reactive approach of what could possibly happen if there were going to be more decedents or not,” Yoder explained. “We didn’t know. Nobody knew.”
IEMA distributed mobile units to various counties throughout the state. Yoder said McLean County will share the unit with other counties if they need the space.
Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood said this week his office was considering using a mobile morgue because a rise in coronavirus cases has nearly brought his office’s morgue to capacity.
Yoder said McLean County needed the overflow once in November when its in-house morgue was full. She said it's not clear how long IEMA will keep the mobile morgue in McLean County.
McLean County deaths are on pace to top totals from recent years, but Yoder said her office is "not overwhelmed." Still, she drew comparisons to the opioid epidemic in 2017.
“We had 40 overdoses related to opioids and other drugs and that was a lot. If (they) are reporting 65 (COVID-related deaths on Thursday), that’s 25 more than our worst-case scenario of the opioids,” Yoder said on Thursday. “I think that’s statistically significant.”
The number of COVID-related deaths in McLean County has since risen to 69, after the county’s deadliest week since the pandemic began. December also is the deadliest month for the virus in McLean County after 11 days.
According to data from the coroner, McLean County is on pace to top last year’s total of 1,306 deaths. The county has reported 1,170 deaths through October. Based on current projections, that would mark nearly an 8% increase in overall deaths year to year.
The county also has had significantly more autopsies this year. Yoder noted that's because the county is temporarily handling them for more counties, following the Sangamon County coroner's death in January.
McLean County conducted 614 autopsies from January through October. The county performed 332 autopsies last year.
Yoder noted the coroner’s office also recently replaced the morgue housed inside its offices since the late 1980s.
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