Suffolk using former meat processing plant to store bodies as morgue overflows
A surge in Suffolk County COVID-19 deaths has caused an overflow at its morgue.
More than a week ago, the county received two refrigerated trailers from the state in order to hold 90 more people who have died, along with the Suffolk morgue, which is located in Hauppauge.
The morgue currently has a capacity of 71, according to the medical examiner's office. The two trailers will be able to hold 90 bodies.
And as of Thursday, 17 more bodies are at a third location known as "building 106 in Yaphank," which is a former meat processing plant. The building can hold up to an additional 300 bodies.
"Having to use refrigerated trailers and building 106, that's a concept that's difficult to embrace," says Dr. Michael Caplan, Suffolk's chief medical examiner. "It's difficult to process, but having said that I think we're doing the best we can in a terrible situation."
Caplan says the morgue is holding bodies that haven't yet been released to funeral homes. Funeral directors like Peter Moloney say they're dealing with their own backlog, as cemeteries can only handle a few burials a day.
"We're doing the best we can. I think all the funeral directors on Long Island and the metro area are doing the best they can for the families," says Moloney. "No one living today has ever seen anything like this."
Moloney says scheduling, getting cremation clearance and more are things that create a backup for them. He says at any given time, they have dozens of families waiting on them.
At Moloney Funeral Home, one of the options it is offering is to have a small outdoor ceremony under a tent with chairs spread apart.
"As tragic as a situation as this is, I'm really pretty proud of the effort that everyone's doing," says Caplan.