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Similar trailers have been used in other states for morgues at overwhelmed hospitals

Yamhill County will ask the state to help it buy a refrigerated trailer to handle victims of a "mass fatality" event.PMG FILE PHOTO - The Yamhill County Public Health Department has got the go-ahead from the county's commissioner to apply to the state for a $20,000 grant that, if successful, will allow the county to purchase a refrigerated trailer to use during mass casualty events such as earthquakes or the pandemic, should it worsen locally.

Lindsey Manfrin, director of the county Health and Human Services Department, came before the Board of Commissioners on July 9 for permission to apply for a $20,000 grant through the Oregon Health Authority to buy a refrigerated trailer. The commissioners approved her request.

Manfrin told commissioners in a July 2 email that her department didn't have sufficent money in its 2020-21 budget and needed the state grant to buy the trailer.

"A mass fatality incident would easily overwhelm our current capacity for decedent storage and processing as identified during mass fatality incident exercises," Manfrin wrote in her email. "We conferred funeral homes, medical examiners, hospitals and other relevant parties who would be involved in a mass fatality incident and drafted a plan outlining standard operating procedures for the use of this type of trailer. The trailer would be mobile and could temporarily store decedents in the event of a masss fatality incident."

Board chairman Casey Kulla said a county environmental health and safety officer has worked on plans to acquire a refrigerated trailer since the COVID-19 virus hit Oregon.

"Public health and the medical examiner have long understood they should have something like this available for what have become regular, human-caused disasters," Kulla said.

Similar refrigerated trailers have been used in other states as the COVID-19 virus swept across the country. The trailers that hold dozens of bodies became temporary morgues for hospitals overwhelmed by virus patients, best evidenced by hospitals in New York City in the early stages of the pandemic.

Oregon had 10,824 COVID-19 cases, with 227 deaths as of July 9. By that date Oregon hospitals also had 188 suspected or confirmed virus patients, 57 of those in intensive care beds and 27 on ventilators.

Yamhill County has 164 COVID-19 cases, with nine deaths, seven at the Astor House retirement home in Newberg. Providence Newberg Medical Center and the Willamette Valley Medical Center in McMinnville both have reported fewer than nine COVID-19 patients.

If Yamhill County's request for a grant is successful, Manfrin will return to the board of commissioners to request approval for the amount awarded, then begin the process of purchasing the trailer.


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