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Pima County Coroner’s Office reaches capacity, brings in refrigerated trucks

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TUCSON(KVOA) -- The Pima County Coroner's Office reached capacity for storing bodies on Wednesday.

Chief Medical Examiner Gregory Hess says they have seen an increase since Christmas.

"We're full, so once we get these refrigerated trucks," Hess said. "We will have additional capacity," Hess said. "We will offer open space back to the community but might not be until tomorrow."

As of Wednesday morning, Hess says they are storing around 300 to 350 bodies at the Pima County Coroner's Office.

"We got a little overwhelmed following the holidays with a huge increase in numbers again 48 over months to 233 in 17 days," Hess said. "We had a plan and still have a plan to bring in more refrigerated units to help."

By Wednesday evening, two refrigerated semi-trucks arrived, bringing the total of four trucks parked outside the coroner's office.

Another grim reminder of how deadly COVID-19 has been.

"If we look at the pace of and think about what could be occurring 4 to 6 weeks from now." Joe Gerald, associate University of Arizona professor said. "We could be seeing twice as many deaths or maybe as much as 4 times as many deaths a day."

Gerald says our state could see darker days ahead.

"There is simply not enough Arizonans who have enough either natural immunity or vaccine-induced immunity to prevent this outbreak from continuing to accelerate," Gerald said.

He predicts Arizona will see 700 deaths a week for the next few months until the vaccine is fully rolled out.

"They've contained death and tragedy in the four walls of the hospital and Arizonans deaths are going un-attended," Gerald said. "They're being transferred to the morgue and funerals are being held in private. And so average Arizonans, it's difficult to see the toll and tragedy that's unfolding around them because it's largely hidden."

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Denelle Confair

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