NEW YORK — Just days after New York leaders ordered people to stay home, authorities are mobilizing to head off a potential public health disaster in the big city.
New York has emerged as the nation's coronavirus hot spot. A makeshift morgue has been set up outside Bellevue Hospital, and the city's police have been told to patrol nearly empty streets to enforce social distancing.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner handles mortuary services in New York City.
"We're in a public health crisis, and the city has declared a state of emergency," an OCME spokesperson said. "As part of that declaration, agencies like OCME have enacted emergency contingency plans to help prepare for every possible outcome."
OCME tents and trucks are just at Bellevue for now, officials said. They are expected to be operational in the coming days.
New York and Hawaii have asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for HHS Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Teams, a FEMA official said. North Carolina has asked for a disaster mortuary liaison. These requests are being reviewed.
Public health officials are hunting down beds and medical equipment and putting out a call for more doctors and nurses for fear the number of sick will explode in a matter of weeks, overwhelming hospitals the way the virus did in Italy and Spain.
There are more than 17,000 cases of COVID-19 in New York City.