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Texas requests five mortuary trailers in anticipation of Covid deaths

The state’s seven-day average of coronavirus deaths is at its highest since March 2021.
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With Covid-19 surging across the state, Texas has requested five mortuary trailers from the federal government in anticipation of an influx of dead bodies, state officials told NBC News.

The mortuary trailers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be stationed in San Antonio and sent around the state at the request of local officials.

Department of State Health Services spokesperson Doug Loveday said the trailers were requested Aug. 4 after officials reviewed data about increasing deaths as a third wave of the coronavirus struck the state.

"We are anticipating a need within the state of Texas for these trailers as Covid cases and hospitalizations continue to increase," Loveday said.

Chris Van Deusen, a spokesperson for the same agency, said the request was made as a precaution.

"We haven't gotten any local requests, but we want to be ready with the Covid cases in the state," Van Deusen said. "We didn't want to wait."

Bruce Davidson, a spokesperson for San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, was not aware of the request but said it "makes sense," adding: "Deaths are starting to mount for sure."

A FEMA spokesperson said three mortuary trailers are expected to arrive on Friday, with the final two slated to reach Texas on Saturday.

“FEMA and HHS continue to work closely with the state of Texas to provide needed resources," the spokesperson said.

Texas recorded 144 deaths Saturday, according to the latest available data. Over the last seven days, deaths averaged 80 a day in Texas, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The last time Texas' seven-day average of Covid deaths was that high was March 16, 2021.

Gov. Greg Abbott's office did not respond to a request for comment about the need for mortuary trailers.

El Paso County Medical Examiner's Office staff help move bodies in bags labeled "Covid" from refrigerated trailers on Nov. 23, 2020.
El Paso County Medical Examiner's Office staff help move bodies in bags labeled "Covid" from refrigerated trailers on Nov. 23, 2020.Ivan Pierre Aguirre / Reuters file

On Friday, Abbott announced nine new centers statewide where Covid patients could obtain monoclonal antibody infusions. The therapeutic drugs made by Regeneron have been shown to prevent hospitalization among less severe Covid cases if given within 10 days of the onset of symptoms.

Abbott issued an executive order banning vaccination and mask mandates July 29 as cases rose in the state. The order was challenged and recently upheld by the state Supreme Court.

CORRECTION (Aug. 17, 2021, 11:20 a.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated when Texas recorded its previous average high of Covid deaths over seven days. It was in March 2021, not March 2020.