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Yes, That’s a Morgue Overflow Truck

The relentlessness of COVID-19 is pushing our state healthcare system to the brink.

Chad Davis

At the onset of COVID-19, way back in early 2020, morgue trucks began appearing in New York City streets to store the dead bodies hospitals couldn’t fit. They served as eerie, visceral reminders of the horrific toll the pandemic has taken on human life.

Now, almost two full years later with no end in sight, that same type of truck is parked outside North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale.

“North Memorial Health has brought in a refrigerator truck to help extend our hospital morgue capacity, as our current reality calls for this assistance,” North Memorial spokesperson Jennifer Rengo said in a statement provided to Racket. “We encourage Minnesotans to take preventative measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 including the new Omicron variant. This includes reducing social gatherings, wearing a mask in all public places, and vaccination including a booster dose.”

Leaders of nine state hospitals recently took out a full-page ad in the Star Tribune: “We’re heartbroken. We’re overwhelmed,” their message began.

About 98% of Minnesota’s adult ICU beds are currently occupied—the highest rate of the pandemic, the Star Tribune reported earlier this month. At the time, 72% of 307 hospitalized Covid patients at M Health Fairview were unvaccinated, doctors told the Strib. There are currently 1,485 hospitalized Covid patients in Minnesota, according to today’s Department of Health briefing. So far 10,156 Minnesotans have died from Covid, including 45 reported Monday. Nationally, that figure just crept over 800,000.

Early in the pandemic the state spent $5.48 million on a refrigerated warehouse in St. Paul that could have stored over 5,000 bodies. It was never used as a morgue and, as of this fall, the St. Paul Port Authority board planned to buy the former Bix produce facility for $5.65 million and flip it to “a buyer who will bring jobs to the city,” the PiPress reports.

Elsewhere in our grim present: Union nurses held a press conference Monday to illustrate how dire the situation is inside Twin Cities hospitals. Here’s a snippet: