17 COVID-19 deaths in July at Washington County Morgue, more than last 3 months combined

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WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/FOX24) — Arkansas has surpassed 6,000 deaths due to COVID-19 as of Monday. The Washington County Coroner said he hasn’t seen numbers like this in months.

When people die from COVID-19 complications in Washington County hospitals, the bodies go to Roger Morris’ office. Morris and his team keep them until a funeral home is ready to take them.

In all of February, the coroner’s office handled seven deaths. In April, they had four. In May, they had three. In June, they had seven. So far in the month of July, they have had 17. And with about two weeks still left in this month, that number is still expected to rise.

“If you don’t want to get vaccinated at least watch your environment, watch who you are with,” said Morris. “I’m not telling people to wear masks because that’s not my place, but I’d rather see you in town wearing a mask, waving at me and me guessing who you are than see you come across my table.”

Morris said he is also starting to restock on PPP.

One new addition that will soon help the coroner’s office handle the influx of COVID-19 deaths is a new mobile morgue unit.

Thanks to a recent vote by the Washington County Quorum Court, Morris now has the money to start renovating the unit. He said the Northwest Arkansas Medical Coalition helped him purchase a cooler trailer earlier this year.

Right now, it sits empty. But he hopes to put enough beds and equipment in it to house up to 19 bodies. And that would increase his overall capacity to between 40 and 50 spots.

Morris said his goal is to make the mobile unit accessible to this entire part of the state.

“We’re going to be using it for Benton County, Sebastian County, Madison County, anywhere in this area that may have had an uptick in COVID or may have had an unfortunate accident,” he said. “We’re really excited about this addition.”

Morris said he plans to get a generator to be able to move it off-premises. He hopes to have it up and running in about a month.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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