ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - AdventHealth says their hospital morgues have reached capacity in Central Florida due to the high number of deaths related to COVID-19.
In an email obtained by FOX 35 News, AdventHealth says they have begun utilizing rented, refrigerated coolers at 10 of its campuses throughout Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole, and Volusia counties.
"These coolers are quickly becoming filled also. We believe this backup is due to a throughput slowdown at local funeral homes which is causing us to hold decedents for a longer period of time," the email reads.
"We're nearing a worst-case scenario. We have mass fatality plans. We were hoping that we wouldn't have to activate those during COVID, but it looks like that has taken place now," Seminole County Emergency Manager Allan Harris says.
The Central Florida Disaster Medical Coalition has stepped in to provide more coolers for the first time since the pandemic began. The executive director says they purchased 14 portable morgues on Friday to get to hospitals across Central Florida by next week.
"It's not just the hospitals, the backup is from the funeral homes and the crematoriums," says Lynne Drawdy, "so they have to have this space to keep these bodies cool before they go on to their final disposition."
On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 43,632 deaths in Florida since the start of the pandemic, an increase of 901 deaths since Wednesday.
Harris believes the number of COVID deaths is actually higher. He says that's because state data doesn't truly reflect what the hospitals are seeing right now because it takes time to verify that the person died from COVID-19, so it's not put in the system right away.
"While we are hearing it from the hospital system that they've seen fatalities related to COVID, we don't get those numbers for three, four [weeks], maybe even a month or two later, because an investigative process must take place. It must be verified that these individuals truly died from COVID, not cancer, not a heart attack."
The portable morgue should be arriving by Monday at the latest.
Watch FOX 35 News for the latest COVID-19 updates.