Refrigerated trailer arriving in Josephine Co. this week

MEDFORD, Ore. – Over the weekend Josephine County Office of Emergency Management requested a refrigerated trailer. This is a first for the county as the community is seeing a surge in COVID-19 deaths.

Josephine County’s hospitals are in crisis mode. Earlier this month a Grants Pass surgeon warned the community.

“I guarantee you, you will see refrigerated trucks at the back of the ER taking the bodies out,” said Dr. Scott Nelson.

With the recent surge in deaths in the community, we’re not far behind in making Dr. Nelson’s warning, a reality.

“Between the hospital and all of our funeral homes available in Josephine County we are reaching capacity with deceased bodies,” said Dr. Leona O’Keefe, Josephine County Public Health’s Medical Officer.

Josephine County is approved to receive a refrigerated trailer sometime this week from Yamhill County. Both Josephine County Public Health and the Office of Emergency Management told NBC5 News they are requesting it just in case.

“This is part of our pre-planning and pre-positioning because we are nearing a potential tipping point in terms of needing that resource,” said Emily Ring, Emergency Manager for Josephine County.

While Josephine County isn’t in crisis mode yet, Ring said she’d rather be safe than sorry.

“I certainly hope we won’t exceed our current ability to manage all descendants the way that we would on a normal blue sky day. We’re hoping we don’t have to utilize this trailer,” said Ring.

This is the first time Josephine County has ever had to make this kind of request.

“Well, it’s mostly COVID-19. I’m not aware of any time when our county has met capacity for caring for deceased people,” said Dr. O’Keefe.

It also comes at a time when the county is seeing record-breaking COVID-19 numbers.

“In January we had 22 deaths related to COVID-19. And so far in August, we have had 43 reported deaths. And we’re still climbing,” said Dr. O’Keefe.

Dr. O’Keefe said one way our community can prevent the severity of COVID-19 cases is the vaccine. Josephine County Office of Emergency Management is still finalizing the details of how and where the trailer will be used.

NBC5 News reporter Katie Streit comes from her hometown, Las Vegas. Katie went to the Hank Greenspun School of Journalism & Media Studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. While in Las Vegas, Katie won a Student Emmy for her coverage of the Las Vegas Shooting Anniversary. She also hosted and produced the university's political news show, where she interviewed Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak and Congresswoman Dina Titus (NV-1). Her passion for politics turned into a coveted internship at the US Capitol in Washington D.C. In her final months working in the Las Vegas area, she was recognized for her journalism achievements by the Nevada Broadcaster's Foundation. Katie is excited to tell the stories of local Southern Oregonians and Northern Californians. Feel free to contact her at [email protected]
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