Mount Hood, Good Samaritan need extra temporary refrigerated space in case of a surge in deaths.

COURTESY PHOTO: SARA KURFEB FOR UNSPLASH - Two Legacy hospitals have temporary morgue trucks to handle a possible surge in COVID-19 deaths.

Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center and Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center have parked refrigerated trucks at the hospitals to be used as temporary morgues in anticipation of a continued upswing in deaths related to COVID-19.

"We've learned from others that in a significant surge, many communities have found that funeral homes cannot keep up with the growing numbers. Having temporary morgues helps minimize that issue," Brian Terrett, Legacy Health's director of public relations and communications said via email.

"We will keep them as long as needed," he said.

"The arrival of temporary morgues is an unfortunate public reminder of the pandemic impact on our communities," said a memo to employees that a Legacy staffer posted on social media.

Terrett said Mount Hood and Good Samaritan hospitals have "small on-site morgues, so Legacy felt those were the best locations."

Oregon has been reporting record numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths in recent days. The virus claimed a one-day record 36 lives in Oregon, the Oregon Health Authority reported on Tuesday, Dec. 8. That brought the state's death total to 1,080.

The agency said there were 1,341 new cases of the virus, pushing the state's known cases past 87,080.

Health authorities warn that cases and deaths could continue to rise as people gather for the holidays and weary of pandemic safety protocols.

Gov. Kate Brown said Friday, Dec. 4, Oregon is "on the brink of a full-blown crisis."

Hospitals in other cities have used refrigerated trucks as temporary morgues as the virus has swamped hospitals and funeral homes.

The Legacy employee memo said: "To safely respond to the COVID-19 surge this winter, health systems across the region are implementing plans to prepare for an expected increase in deaths and related delays in pick-ups from funeral homes and mortuaries that are also busy right now."

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