Washington County Coroner reflects on pandemic

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) —  Today, March 24, marks one year since Governor Asa Hutchinson announced the state’s first two COVID-19 related deaths. Over 5,500 Arkansans have died due to the coronavirus.

Washington County Coroner, Roger Morris has been in the business for over 20 years. He tells KNWA/FOX24 News this past year has been tough.

Morris says he’s on call 24 hours a day. He says September to January were the busiest with the largest spike in January when they worked 107 COVID -19 deaths in the county, that month.

Morris says they had to add onto their morgue last year to have additional space to store bodies but to also keep contagious bodies separate from natural deaths.

He says that the majority of people who died because of the virus had some previous health condition.

He notes there’s been a drastic decrease in deaths in recent weeks with the help of the vaccination rollout but he is encouraging folks not to let their guard down because it could mean a life.

“People need to take a long look at themselves and see what they did during this time. See the loss that other people had to deal with during this time and be thankful for what we have. Let’s work together. Let’s not work against each other,” said Morris.

Morris tells us in some cases he is working multiple deaths in a single family and that’s tough.

Although deaths are on the decline, Morris is worried about another spike in cases. Noting concerns about the variants circulating, spring break vacations, memorial weekend around the corner and people easing up on the safety guidelines.

He says we are close to beating this, if we all work together we can save lives.

“By the time it comes to us, we’re the end, they are deceased when they are with us… To me 10 deaths is too many because everyone of these deaths would not happen without this virus,” said Morris.

He reiterates the importance of social distancing and wearing a mask to protect yourself and those around you.

When it comes to the mask mandate, Morris wants it to stay in place through the winter and until the state gets the majority of Arkansans vaccinated.

He is also encouraging folks to get the COVID-19 shot and hoping the vaccine opens up to all citizens sooner than later.

Morris says he is fully vaccinated to protect himself, his loved ones and his community.

Morris says his staff work hundreds of deaths every year on top of the COVID -19 related deaths. He thanks his team and adds he couldn’t have done it without them.

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

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