A team of 36 National Guard troops has been deployed to “provide support for mortuary affairs,” according to the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM).
The team was mobilized Saturday morning “after completing an assessment of the situation on the ground in El Paso County this week,” TDEM spokesman Seth Christensen told CNN.
“Unfortunately, as we have seen a rapid increase in cases and hospitalizations, we are also seeing an increase in deaths. We have been working closely with cemeteries and houses to help increase capacity and coordinate resources,” El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said in a statement on Twitter.
“The military in Texas will provide us with critical personnel to carry out our death management plan, and we are very grateful for their ongoing support.”
Margo said the city and county have secured a central morgue to add additional capacity. According to the mayor’s statement, the location of the morgue is not disclosed due to privacy.
The Texas National Guard was called to replace inmates who were recruited by El Paso earlier this week to move bodies of coronavirus victims to temporarily relieve overworked personnel.
Last month, funeral homes in the county prepared refrigeration systems for house bodies if they became overloaded. The county also requested four more mobile mornings last week, which would bring the total number of mobile mornings to 10.
El Paso, one of Texas’ Covid-19 hotspots, reported 1,074 new Covid-19 cases and eight deaths Saturday. The county has recorded a total of 247 coronavirus-related deaths, according to the county’s health department Covid dashboard.
The number of U.S. coronavirus cases exceeded 12 million on Saturday – an increase of more than 1 million cases in less than a week.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, more than 255,000 deaths from Covid-19 have been reported in the United States since the pandemic began.