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Morgan County sees rise in unattended deaths; coronavirus is a factor

Deputies say they are seeing an increase in unattended deaths this month, compared to the same time last year and believe coronavirus is a big reason why.

Posted: May 20, 2020 9:40 PM
Updated: May 20, 2020 10:42 PM

The Morgan County Sheriff's Office says coronavirus is having an impact on the community that it didn't expect. 

Deputies say they are seeing an increase in unattended deaths this month, compared to the same time last year and believe coronavirus is a big reason why.

Unattended deaths are when a body has been deceased, but not found for days, weeks, or even months. Mike Swafford with the Morgan County Sheriff's Office says with less human contact and caretakers unavailable because of coronavirus and designated restrictions, there is a rise in unattended deaths.

"Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, a lot of things have been different. A lot of people aren't interacting like they normally would. One of things Morgan County Coroner Jeff Chunn pointed out is that we are seeing in unattended death," Swafford said.

Swafford says coronavirus and the recent state orders changed life in many ways, especially for older residents.

"Because there's not that normal, routine process of someone bringing meals, somebody checking on their neighbors, stopping in to talk to them, sadly, they can lay there for multiple days," Swafford said.

Some elderly individuals recently died of natural causes, but because they sheltered alone in their homes and may not have had access to help during this difficult time, the death wasn't immediately noticed.

"Probably a 30 to 40 percent increase, it's not a lot, it's not a high number, but it's really an emotional thing when you think about somebody's last moments," Swafford said.

The Morgan County Sheriff's Office asks the community to be on the look out and aware of neighborhood habits. You can make sure your neighbors are safe and healthy while still social distancing.

"Check on your neighbor. You can do it safely, you can knock on the door, step away, and make sure they are in there. If you're used to seeing somebody get the mail everyday and all of a sudden they're not, those are the things we want people to be conscious of," Swafford said.

If you are concerned about a neighbor and can't contact them, please call your local law enforcement.

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