Cuyahoga County requesting refrigerated units for body storage in light of COVID-19 surge

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CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio (WJW) — The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office is preparing to request refrigerated units for body storage in light of the surge in COVID-19 cases.

Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Gilson said during a press briefing Friday that it’s a proactive measure prompted by the increase in daily deaths in the county over the past week.

“We just want to be ready,” he said. “We’re not sure what the impact of the Thanksgiving holiday is going to be.”

Gilson estimates the county will have the refrigerated units sometime next week.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 28,450 positive coronavirus cases in Cuyahoga County along with 716 deaths, according to officials.

In November, the county had an average of 500 positive cases per day. In the past week, there have been an average of 600 positive cases per day. Officials expect that number to increase due to Thanksgiving get-togethers.

Regarding the refrigerated units, Gilsons said as part of the county’s disaster preparedness plan, officials monitor the average number of residents who pass away on any given day. That averages to about 40 people, he said.

However, only about 50 percent of those deaths are reported to the medical examiner’s office on any given day.

As part of the disaster plan, the threshold that needs to be met for the request for refrigerated units sits at three sustained days of 30 or more deaths.

“We achieved that in the past week,” he said.

Gilson emphasized that local funeral homes are reporting that they are busy but are not overwhelmed. He said they and local hospitals are not currently experiencing storage issues.

Thursday, the Ohio Department of Health said 8,921 COVID-19 cases, 82 deaths, 396 hospitalizations and 33 intensive care unit admissions were reported in the last 24 hours. The data was incomplete with thousands of reports pending review.

There have been 446,849 total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases, and 6,753 deaths in the state, according to the health department. It is presumed that 298,332 people have recovered.

Medina, Portage, Richland, Stark and Summit joined Lake and Lorain counties in the highest level of the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, which is the state’s color-coded map that determines coronavirus risk.

Cuyahoga County is on the watch list.

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