Overflow of COVID-19 bodies has ice arenas in play as possible storage centers

The Oakland County Medical Examiner's Office had to help with storing 10 bodies from an overwhelmed hospital system Wednesday. It is the first time that's happened since the COVID-19 crisis.

This overflow plan had been put in place a while back, they brought in two refrigeration units and are working with the state to bring in one to two refrigeration trucks.

The last resort is looking at ice arenas as a provisional morgue.

"They've done everything that they can and they finally reached that point where they can't handle it - and that's what we are here for," said Casimir Miarka, Oakland County Medical Examiner Administrator. "It's not that they were looking for an easy way out or anything. I will tell you, the hospital system was phenomenal."

FOX 2: "Under what circumstances would you look at ice arenas as a last option?"

"Last option, that would mean all our units are full, we can no longer put any more bodies in those," Miarka said. "That would mean all the refrigeration trucks are full, we could no longer utilize those, then we would be forced to that ice rink. Depending on the storage capacity, that would be our last resort."

The medical examiner's administrator says full capacity at hospitals is much lower than what the medical examiner can accommodate, as 60-65 bodies can be held at Oakland County's facility without additional storage.

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FOX 2: "We've gotten to the point here in Michigan, where we are considering using skating rinks. It's just devastating for so many families impacted by COVID-19.

"There is a large impact," Miarka said. "When you look at the number of deaths and you follow the numbers the way they are; it is going to impact everybody. It's not just the hospitals or the medical examiners. It's everybody." 

The medical examiner is also testing bodies for Covid-19 and reporting to the state. They are taking extra precautions handling all bodies. The Oakland County medical examiner said that Wayne and Macomb counties are making plans to deal with surge capacity."