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Refrigerated truck on standby in Marshall County as death rate climbs, morgues near capacity

“From July-August 2020 vs July through August of this year we had a 40 percent increase in deaths just in our office and that’s not counting hospital deaths, and hospice deaths,” Nugent says. “On an average year we would normally work about 165 cases and as of right now which is September 16 we have had 170 just this year.”

Posted: Sep 16, 2021 4:06 PM
Updated: Sep 16, 2021 6:02 PM

For the second time during the pandemic, Marshall County has secured a mobile morgue as space to hold bodies nears capacity.

Marshall County Coroner Cody Nugent said the units are not meant to frighten the public. They are part of a mass fatality plan. The coroner’s office only has room to store 14 bodies at a time, and the leased truck will triple the capacity.

“Coroners offices and county EMAs are basically on our own to try to determine what we need to do to respond to this to have her own resources available,” Nugent told WAAY 31 Thursday.

Nugent is no stranger to death. But what he’s encountering during this pandemic is nothing like this county has seen before.

“From July-August 2020 vs July through August of this year we had a 40 percent increase in deaths just in our office and that’s not counting hospital deaths, and hospice deaths,” Nugent says.

“On an average year we would normally work about 165 cases and as of right now which is Sept. 16 we have had 170 just this year.”

The two hospitals in Marshall County don’t have morgue space, so it’s up to the coroner and the two small funeral homes in town to keep up with the growing demand. 

Nugent says it’s not just Covid-19 deaths they are seeing spike.

“Honestly at this point we cannot say what is Covid related and what isn’t, but we’re just seeing an influx of death.”

Resources are stretched thin inside the coroner’s office and deputy coroners are volunteers. Those personnel are feeling the impacts of the pandemic, too.

“ I have one deputy now who is out with Covid just trying to make a recovery from it I’m down staff just from Covid still an increase in deaths it is just a strain overall of this death rate,” Nugent said.

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