GRANTS PASS, Ore. – Josephine County Emergency Management has filed for a mobile refrigeration mortuary in case deaths in the county call for additional waiting space. The one-time trailer, requested from Yamhill County as a caring partner, is expected to arrive by Friday, September 3 at no cost to Josephine County.
Yamhill County makes the resource regionally deployable to other counties, such as Josephine County, which do not have large mortuary facilities in the event of mass fatal incidents.
Josephine County Emergency Management Director Emily Ring was tasked with making arrangements for the arrival of the 14-person mobile mortuary. When Ring spoke to Newswatch 12 on Tuesday, August 31, she said the county hopes the mortuary will be used only lightly, if at all.
“We may not be able to use the top shelf, so its capacity might be slightly less. The hope is that we don’t need to use it at all.”
She says Josephine County has limited staff and the limited lifting equipment needed to reach the upper spaces of the mobile mortuary.
Ring also clarified that the mobile morgue could be used for a variety of causes of death, not just deaths from Covid-related illness.
As Ring tidies up the logistics, she says the county is also still working to determine the location of the mobile mortuary until the deceased are transported to their final resting place. She says it will be located somewhere in Josephine County.
Officials in Josephine County made it clear to Newswatch 12 that the mobile mortuary would not be in a public space and would be safe and secure.
Newswatch 12 learned from Hull & Hull funeral directors in Grants Pass that it has a facility to run a mobile refrigeration mortuary if needed.
While county officials hope it won’t be necessary, Ring says it is a vital resource on hand as Josephine County Public Health continues to monitor the death toll from Covid-19.
Josephine County alone reported eight more deaths on Tuesday, bringing the county’s death toll to 131 since the start of the pandemic. All had underlying conditions, and none had been vaccinated against COVID-19. The youngest was a 35-year-old woman who died at her home on August 19, according to Josephine County Public Health.