City of Amarillo asks public to wear masks, distance, and avoid gatherings as COVID-19 deaths force morgue expansion

Local News

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Amarillo hospitals are expanding morgue capacity with mobile trailers as COVID-19 deaths increase—and the medical community is begging the public to take necessary precautions to slow the spread.

“I wanted everyone to understand that this is really a critical situation, obviously, when we’re talking about increasing our morgue capacity.”

Dr. Scott Milton, Amarillo Public Health Authority & TTUHSC Infectious Disease Specialist

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson broke the news about morgue capacity expanding to the public with a video on her Facebook page Thursday night. MyHighPlains.com got new information from the City of Amarillo via a press call Friday afternoon.

The mayor said Amarillo hospitals are getting resources from the State of Texas through the Panhandle Regional Advisory Council (RAC), including travel nurses to help with increasing coronavirus patients.

“…Another resource that’s coming through the RAC is additional capacity to help support our morgue, which at our current caseload is not able to handle the volume of people who are dying of COVID in our city,” Mayor Nelson said. “So, we’re really grateful for the RAC resources and really sad that we need those additional resources.”

Recent resources include two mobile trailers which will act as storage until families can make arrangements for their loved ones. The city said the first trailer arrived about two weeks ago and the second, just a few days ago.

Dr. Scott Milton, an infectious disease specialist at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Amarillo, who also serves as the Amarillo Public Health Authority, was also on the call.

Dr. Milton said, “I wanted everyone to understand that this is really a critical situation, obviously, when we’re talking about increasing our morgue capacity.”

The mayor said she hopes this news about expanding our morgue capacity will get people’s attention.

“So we’re looking for traction, to get people’s attention, to get them to engage and thoughtfully, consider what their individual actions are, whether they’re choosing to go to social engagements. Maybe they’re a leader in the community, and they have influence over whether or not those events are happening,” said Mayor Nelson. “Anything they can do to limit the spread of COVID is something that helps our hospital.”

The mayor also said the COVID surge in our city is very real and there are difficult consequences because of our COVID numbers.

We are so worn out and just from all the—just the critical patients—and we just want to protect everyone and help everyone. We can only do so much. So we need you guys to do your part.

Shelby Johnson, Travel Nurse

A travel nurse on the front lines also encouraged people to take the necessary steps to slow the spread of the virus.

Shelby Johnson, a travel nurse who has been in Amarillo for about four months was at the hospital with Dr. Milton.

Johnson made this plea to the public: “I know there’s some events coming up and the holiday season but right now the hospitals are so full, that, you know, resources are, you know, kind of really limited. In order to protect yourselves and the health of your loved ones, please social distance and stay home. Wear your masks if you’re at the hospital. We’re tired. We are so worn out and just from all the—just the critical patients—and we just want to protect everyone and help everyone. We can only do so much. So we need you guys to do your part.”

A portable morgue unit is also on the way from the State of Texas to Amarillo to help as more deaths occur in our hospitals. Mayor Nelson said there is no timeline for when it should arrive.

Amarillo City Manager, Jared Miller, said the city does not operate our hospital morgues, so there is no update on the additional morgue capacity or their operations.


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