The requests, made by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), come as the White House revealed this week that as many as 240,000 Americans could die from the virus.
The 85 refrigerated trucks have been ordered to New York City where they will hold the deceased as morgue space in the city is almost full, according to a FEMA memo reviewed by ABC News. The trucks are due in the city in mid-April.
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FEMA’s request for body bags, formally called Human Remains Pouches, was confirmed by the Pentagon on Thursday.
“The Department of Defense and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) have a longstanding arrangement with FEMA to procure key commodities from DLA’s industrial partners during crisis response operations,” said Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, Pentagon spokesperson, in a statement. “DLA is currently responding to FEMA’s prudent planning efforts for 100,000 pouches to address mortuary contingencies on behalf of state health agencies.”
But it’s not just equipment that DOD is providing to assist with mortuary affairs, it’s personnel, too.
Earlier this week, FEMA requested that a DOD mortuary affairs support team deploy to New York state, according to Vice Director of Operations for the Joint Staff Maj. Gen. Jeff Taliaferro. That team arrived in New York on Wednesday, and a second mortuary affairs support team is expected to be deploy elsewhere in the United States, a U.S. official told ABC News.
As of Friday, more than 6,000 Americans had passed away from the coronavirus.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, told reporters during a briefing this week that academic modeling shows 100,000 to 240,000 Americans could die from the virus even with social distancing measures in place. Birx emphasized that without mitigation efforts between 1.5 million and 2.2 million people in the U.S. would die.