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Akron General is using a refrigerated mobile morgue to help with overflow of COVID-19 deaths

Cleveland Clinic
Cleveland Clinic's Akron General has the highest number of COVID-19 patients since the pandemic started, and a surge in deaths has prompted hospital official to bring back a mobile refrigerated morgue used at the beginning of the pandemic.

Cleveland Clinic Akron General's morgue is so full from the recent COVID-19 surge that hospital officials have started using a refrigerated trailer as a mobile morgue to deal with overflow. 

The news speaks to the dire nature of the pandemic, said Dr. Brian Harte, president of the hospital.

"It's depressing, it's sobering, and it's really a call to action and sense of urgency to our community to really get vaccinated from COVID-19," Dr. Harte said. 

The need for the refrigerated truck is both directly and indirectly tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

Dying COVID-19 patients are filling up the morgue, but there is also an indirect cause as well. People are delaying care due to the pandemic and showing up much sicker to the hospital, even those without COVID-19, Harte said. 

"It's a combination of a higher number of people passing away in the hospital both directly from COVID-19 and indirectly, because even those that don't have COVID-19 are presenting to the hospital, on average, sicker that patients we've seen in the past," he said. 

This isn't the first time that Akron General has used the mobile morgue. They used the refrigerated unit at the beginning of the pandemic, and Harte said when they didn't need it, they passed it along to another Cleveland Clinic hospital that could use it. It holds about 25 bodies. 

About 63 percent of Summit County residents are vaccinated, which is just above the state's average. 

Akron General, however, has the highest number of COVID-19 patients it's had since the pandemic started, with 127 COVID-19 patients in the hospital as of Tuesday, Harte said. 

More than 80 percent of those patients are unvaccinated, he said. 

"And if you look at just those with severe illness in our Intensive Care Units, the ones that are at most risk of dying, they're probably closer to 90 percent unvaccinated," he said. "So while there are breakthrough infections amongst vaccinated individuals, they're far less common and significantly less severe."

There are 786 hospitalized patients at the Cleveland Clinic's Ohio hospitals and 218 patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), according to a tweet from the hospital system. 


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