CNN – Refrigerated trailers to be used as makeshift morgues hummed outside two hospitals on Thursday as New York City deals with the surging death count in the epicenter of the nation’s coronavirus pandemic.

The last time New York took such drastic measures was after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when the city medical examiner’s office was tasked with identifying tens of thousands of body parts from the 2,753 people killed in the World Trade Center collapse.

The makeshift morgues signal the historic challenge posed by the national health crisis.
At least 281 people have died from Covid-19 across the city, Mayor Bill De Blasio said Thursday.

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There are 21,873 confirmed cases of the virus. New York state, where 385 people have died from the virus, has more than 37,000 of the nation’s more than 80,000 coronavirus cases.

The US death toll from coronavirus has topped 1,100. Trailers and white tents were also set up outside New York Bellevue Hospital Center, which is adjacent to the medical examiner’s building.

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Davis noted the refrigerated trucks are not specifically for coronavirus cases. They’re intended to help alleviate the morgue space at hospitals if needed. The trailers will be used if the hospital morgues reach capacity.

“We’re in a public health crisis, and the city has declared a state of emergency,” the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) said in a statement.

“As part of that declaration, agencies like OCME have enacted emergency contingency plans to help prepare for every possible outcome.”

The trucks are part of a city plan to prepare for the potential surge of bodies from the coronavirus pandemic, Worthy-Davis said.