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State activates Michigan Mortuary Response Team as COVID-19 deaths mount


The rising number of COVID-19 deaths in Michigan has prompted the state to activate the Michigan Mortuary Response Team (MI-MORT) for the first time in its history.

MI-MORT is a collaborative effort of approximately 40 volunteers from across the state, including medical examiners and investigators, law enforcement, forensic scientists, chaplains and funeral directors.

MI-MORT Commander Timothy Schramm, funeral director for Howe-Peterson funeral homes in Dearborn and Taylor, said its main function is to act as a “pressure relief valve” for hospitals whose morgues have reached capacity. He said they have an operational plan in place through May 29th.

“That could be significantly cut short, [or] that could be significantly extended, depending upon how this event evolves,” Schramm said.

Schramm said they’ve established a private and secure site for storing bodies in southeast Michigan. Officials declined to reveal its exact location. They also declined to say which local entity specifically requested MI-MORT be activated.

“I think all of us can look at the map of infection rates, the map of deaths, and draw our own conclusions as to what are those specific areas [of greatest need],” Schramm said.

“What we hope is families can take comfort in knowing that the remains of their loved ones are being handled with compassion, professionalism, dignity.”

As of Thursday, Michigan reported 41,379 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 3,789 deaths.

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Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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