The death toll in Hawaii from COVID-19 stands at 811 on Tuesday. Almost 200 of them occurred in September.
That number could have taxed the Honolulu mortuary without the acquisition of three refrigerated containers for the medical examiner’s office, which originally had a capacity of 60.
With the recent high number of deaths, the medical examiner uses two of these three containers. The Conversation spoke with Charlotte Carter, a senior medical and legal investigator in the medical examiner’s office, about the capacity issue.
Carter said she was grateful that she was able to work with the Honolulu Fire Department to acquire the necessary equipment just before the number of cases increased.
“We wouldn’t want to overcrowd our mortuary. We have historically used an offsite secondary storage facility. It’s commercial – you know most funeral homes and hospitals use this facility as well – and we just wanted power for us too. make sure we could eliminate any cases we had at this facility to make room for the hospitals, ”Carter said.
Although two of the containers are in use, Carter said there were quite a few open spaces in the internal morgue.
“Inside the morgue right now we have about 27 – that was the last count I had, which is really good. If we had had that and no one in the trailers, I would really, really be. happy with that kind of space, ”she told Hawai’i Public Radio. “These trailers are nothing new to, in any way, the death care industry or the mass death care environment. they become necessary at times. “
Carter also said she was grateful they had them and didn’t have to wait for them to be shipped because Hawai’i is in such a remote location.
“It could have taken a very long time if we had to rely on the federal government or other resources to be able to get something like this very, very quickly,” she added.
The medical examiner’s office is also in the midst of a $ 5 million renovation to double its capacity, but construction will take another year and a half.
This interview aired on The Conversation on October 5, 2021.