Metro Nashville Medical Examiner's office overwhelmed by an increase in bodies

Mobile coolers brought in for overflow
Metropolitan Nashville-Davidson County medical examiner office
Posted at 10:59 PM, Jan 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-12 00:07:23-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn (WTVF) — Metro Nashville hit an all time high for active cases Monday at more than 8,500. So far, 490 Nashvillians have died from the virus which is having a big impact on the Davidson County Medical Examiner's Office. It has to hold so many bodies, that multiple FEMA mobile coolers are being used.

Dr. Feng Li, chief medical examiner for Metro Nashville Davidson County says he is feeling the pressures of COVID-19.

"Sometimes we are really feel overwhelmed because like today we have more than 50 cases."

He says the pandemic is partially to blame. The Medical examiner is not responsible for Coronavirus deaths when someone dies in the hospital.

"But a few cases die in jail, in prison and at home; we have to take care of these patients," Li said.

But Li says the increase in workload is also coming from indirect pandemic deaths like drug overdoses - in record-breaking numbers.

"More people died as a result of suicide and homicide," Li said.

His office is also called upon by nursing homes or even other hospitals when they need a place to store bodies.

"Sometimes other hospitals, other regional facilities they don't have a place to hold the bodies, and they request can we store the bodies in your facility. So, we do that too," said Li.

Li says at this point, his office is full. Even with mobile coolers, they are running out of room. "Right now, our capacity has exceeded. More bodies come in than we can handle in our regular coolers." said Li. "We have two huge coolers but still we cannot hold, and therefore we have started using the trailers provided by FEMA and we already put some bodies into one of these FEMA trailers."

FEMA has provided the city with three temporary mobile trailers to handle the overflow. Li is asking the city and the state for financial help and more staff.

"Obviously, we need more staff, more doctors, more investigators, more technicians and other staff to support," said Li, "We're in the process getting our coolers expanded, and now we talking with the state and local to do that, to just do that."

He believes that can last them a few more years.