Temporary emergency morgue set up in Indianapolis to handle possible surge in COVID-19 deaths

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — A temporary emergency morgue has been set up in Marion County in response to the ongoing pandemic.

The facility, which is in a private location near downtown, will be able to handle hundreds of bodies.

Officials with the Marion County coroner’s office are hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst when it comes to an expected surge in COVID-19 related deaths.

Even with 4 refrigerated units set up in the parking lot, the coroner’s office has a maximum capacity of around 50 bodies.

Setting up a large temporary morgue to handle up to 750 bodies is uncharted water for the city.

“In my years at the coroner’s office I never thought we’d have to do this, but it is in our mass fatality plans,” said chief deputy coroner Alfie McGinty.

McGinty added that most hospitals and long-term care facilities are not equipped to store large numbers of deceased victims, so the temporary morgue is designed to ease that burden.

“You know in any incident it’s about being prepared and we are prepared at this point,” said McGinty.

Of course, no one yet knows when COVID-19 deaths will peak in Indiana or how many people will die and the hope is the 750 cold storage slabs won’t be needed, but they’ll be ready if they are.

“You know we actually pray we don’t see anything near what is projected,” said McGinty.  “We just simply wanted to be prepared and didn’t want to be in a situation where we had nowhere to store bodies.”

In the meantime, McGinty joins other health officials in encouraging people to continue to social distance with the hope that the spread of the virus will be slowed and the number of deaths will come down.

“We certainly want to see the numbers decrease and don’t want to have that facility filled at all,” said McGinty.

The temporary morgue will be staffed round the clock 24 hours a day.  Funeral homes will be able to pick up bodies between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.

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