COVID-19: Santa Clara County hospitals bring in refrigerated trailers as morgues reach near full capacity

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- At least three hospital morgues in Santa Clara County have run out of space to hold those who have died from COVID-19, and another four are near capacity, according to county officials.

As of Thursday afternoon, 1,028 deaths have been reported countywide since the start of the pandemic. The grim milestone weighs heavily on the minds of many as cases continue to rise throughout the country.

"It not only leads to strains on the healthcare system, but really leads to deaths and families being torn apart," said Dr. Ahmad Kamal, the county's COVID-19 healthcare preparedness director.

The situation has become so dire that the county has already brought in three additional refrigerator trailers, which can each store up to 60 bodies, to meet the demand.

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There are more than two million COVID-19 cases statewide and hospitals across California are being pushed to their breaking point. At Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, they have implemented their COVID-19 surge plan.

"Once these trailers fill up, we have actually requested another two trailers to come in to our county which is what we're hoping to get in the next several weeks," said Kamal.

With more deaths on the horizon, funeral homes are having a tough time keeping up. Officials at Beddingfield Funeral Service in San Jose say demand is triple what it normally would be this time of year.

"The county health department is taking a little longer than usual with processing death certificates so we can't even get the permits in a timely manner just because everything is so backed up right now," said funeral home co-owner Tom Beddingfield. "It's very, very sad to watch all this and see all this."

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Beddingfield has stopped short of turning families away, but says his team may have to reassess if the situation gets worse.

Beddingfield added, "We're all working overtime trying to accommodate people, trying to get everything out to the families that we serve."

Infectious disease experts say now is not the time for the public to let up, especially with ICU capacity currently around 6% countywide.

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"Until more than 75% or so of the population is immunized against this deadly virus, it's just very, very important that all of us to the things that we do know are effective in preventing transmission," said Dr. Dean Winslow, an infectious disease expert and professor in the Stanford School of Medicine.

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