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Ongoing surge sets new record highs for COVID cases, deaths; space low at Oahu’s morgue

Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 4:58 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 28, 2021 at 9:40 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Friday marked the deadliest day of the pandemic in Hawaii. Health officials reported 1,035 new COVID infections and nine additional deaths.

Both are single-day records.

Meanwhile, officials at the morgue in Honolulu say space at the facility is getting tighter by the day.

On Tuesday, a mortuary trailer was deployed to the Honolulu Medical Examiner’s Office to provide additional storage room.

Officials confirmed the trailer is now in use, adding it has nothing to do with the office’s upcoming renovations. They will still have access to 90% of the morgue’s storage during construction.

CONTINUING COVERAGE:

“The trailer was brought in regardless of that,” said Charlotte Carter, acting supervising medical legal investigator. “It was just due to space constraints.”

She said as of Friday morning the morgue was operating nearly 40% over capacity.

Carter confirmed the facility can hold up to 60 people.

She say 51 were being stored inside the morgue, while 17 had been placed in the mortuary trailer outside. Another 14 people are being kept at a back-up facility that is also short of space.

“The outside storage facility that we’ve used in the past also takes care of some of the hospitals. They’ve asked if you guys have other resources we’d appreciate if you use them,” Carter said.

She says she anticipates there will be an even greater strain on capacity at the morgue once funerals start getting delayed because of new gathering restrictions.

On average, the morgue gets between three and five people a day. Now, Carter says it’s more like six to eight. Their causes of death are wide-ranging.

She say of the 68 people currently being kept at the morgue, 12 had COVID.

“There are probably some at the off-site facility that are positive as well,” she added.

Most of those dying of COVID in Hawaii are listed as having “underlying conditions.”

Hilton Raethel, head of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, said that can include chronic kidney disease, heart disease, lung disease, stroke and obesity.

“Obesity is a challenge,” he said. “The body has to work harder. The heart and the lungs have to work harder to circulate air and oxygen and blood throughout the body ― as the body gets larger.

“So it puts a lot more strain on the organs.”

Raethel says there have also been a significant number of COVID patients with complications of infections ― like sepsis ― who have been hospitalized.

“It’s all about your body’s defenses and how well your body can fight these infections,” he said.

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