WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- As El Paso County grapples with a coronavirus surge, members of the Texas National Guard troops have been sent to the county to help with morgue operations.
- The troops will replace the inmates the county previously hired to transport the bodies of deceased COVID victims.
- Officials said early this month they were bringing in 10 temporary morgue trailers to accommodate the corpses.
Dozens of Texas National Guard troops were deployed to El Paso County to aid in morgue operations as a surge in coronavirus cases and deaths in the state continue.
The Texas Division of Emergency Management confirmed to CNN that a total of 36 troops had been deployed. El Paso Mayor Dee Margo (R) said city and county officials have established a central location for a morgue in the city.
According to CNN, the National Guard troops will be replacing the jail inmates El Paso previously hired to move the bodies of those who died from COVID-19 in the area.
Last week, Chris Acosta, a spokesperson for El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, said that inmates are not usually paid for such work, the inmates volunteered on the condition that they are compensated.
Prison labor isn’t unusual in the US. The county was paying prison inmates $2 per hour to transport the corpses. However, concerns arise as outbreaks of coronavirus in jails have been a recurring issue throughout the pandemic.
“As we’ve seen a rapid increase in cases and hospitalizations, we are unfortunately also seeing a spike in deaths,” Mayor Margo shared on Twitter on Friday. “We have been working closely with funeral homes and mortuaries to assist with increased capacity and coordination of resources.”
“The Texas Military will provide us with the critical personnel to carry out our fatality management plan and we are very grateful to them for their ongoing support,” the mayor added.
The county is one of the Lone Star State’s hotspots for the virus, reporting 1,074 new cases Saturday and eight additional deaths, for a total of 853 dead overall. The state has recorded a total of 1.13 million cases and just under 21,000 deaths.
Source: The HILL