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Pentagon providing 100,000 body bags as US coronavirus outbreak worsens

A funeral director and a Wycoff Heights Medical Center, employee transport a body, April 1, 2020, in New York. Mary Altaffer/AP

The Pentagon is seeking to provide up to 100,000 body bags as US experts have predicted as many deaths from the coronavirus.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has requested 100,000 such bags to the Pentagon, a Department official said on Wednesday.

The Pentagon already has 50,000 such bags, but it is trying to acquire double that amount of new bags to meet the request, Bloomberg News reported initially, citing sources.

The United States is expecting the death of as many as 200,000 people from COVID-19 in coming months, top White House official said.

The US has reported more than 216,500 cases of coronavirus infection, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. More than 5,100 people have died in the country as of early Thursday morning. The death toll in New York City, the epicenter of the covid-19 pandemic in the US, has passed 1,300.

The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), which is working with the current contractor on additional body bag capacity, does not yet have a specific delivery date request from FEMA, but the agency wants the bags as soon as they are ready, the Pentagon told Reuters.

The Troop Support unit of DLA is responsible for managing the Pentagon’s stockpile of the 94-inch by 38-inch body bags, which are normally used in war zones.

President Donald Trump’s healthcare advisers called on Americans to follow strict social distancing measures ahead of a “tough two weeks” that could see at least 100,000 deaths from the respiratory illness.

Trump warned Americans of tough time ahead, although he continues to resists calls for declaring a nationwide stay-at-home order. He said that the decision is better left to governors.  

On Wednesday, four new states of Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Nevada, enforced strict policies. The measures have put over 80 percent of the people under lockdown.

One third of US states have yet to issue statewide stay-at-home orders.

This is while, hospitals in some areas, including New York have been securing refrigerated trucks to help hold bodies in areas where capacity for storing them has run out.

Trump admits US stockpile of protective equipment almost gone

The US president admitted that the government’s emergency stockpile of protective equipment is almost exhausted as “demands are extraordinary.”

He said on Wednesday that his administration was directly sending the stockpile to the hospitals.

The president, who has been criticized for a lack of central planning, called on states to “make a deal” and buy personal protective equipment (PPE) directly from manufacturers.

“We’ve asked states where they have large manufacturers of different types of equipment to use those local factories, those local plants and have it made directly, ship it right into the hospitals,” Trump said.

The shortages was first reported by the Washington Post, which said the government’s emergency stockpile of respirator masks, gloves and other medical supplies is running low.

The US tally is now far more than that of China, which has effectively controlled the local transmission of the disease in mainland.

China reported a total of 3,312 deaths and 81,554 cases of COVID-19 since the disease emerged in the country back in December.

Globally, more than 937,000 people have been infected and 47,249 died.


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