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Authorities have discovered 18 bodies in a “makeshift morgue” at a US nursing home riddled with coronavirus.
Police were called to the Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center, in New Jersey, after someone spotted a body in a shed.
When officers arrived at the facility the body had been removed from the shed and was back inside, Police Chief Eric Danielson said.
Five bodies were found on Sunday and 13 more were found on Monday, The New Jersey Herald reports.
There have been 68 deaths reportedly linked to the home, including two nurses.
“In order to help them as they were being overcome ... by the numerous amount of bodies, we facilitated a transfer of 13 bodies from the facility at 99 Mulford Road to Newton Medical Center, where they had a refrigerated trailer on standby for this worldwide pandemic that we're all going through,” he said.
“It was overwhelming, I think, for the people that were inside, the staff.
“The staff was overwhelmed by the number of bodies that were becoming deceased and as to why they were becoming deceased, whether it's related to COVID-19 or natural causes, we're not sure of. We don't get that information. But they needed help.”
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said the people lost their lives to an outbreak of coronavirus and he was “heartbroken”.
“I am also outraged that bodies of the dead were allowed to pile up in a makeshift morgue at the facility,” he said.
The discoveries were made after complaints to authorities from staff and family members to law enforcement.
Nineteen of the home’s 35 residents who have died since March 30 had the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said.
Of more than 500 residents listed as of April 15, 103 had tested positive, and more than 100 more had symptoms. Fifty-two staff members also showed symptoms.
Trump's three-phase plan to reopen economy
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has given state governors a road map for recovering from the economic pain of the coronavirus pandemic, laying out a phased approach to restoring normal activity.
The new guidelines are aimed at easing restrictions in areas with low transmission of the coronavirus, while holding the line in harder-hit locations.
They make clear that the return to normality will be a far longer process than Trump initially envisioned, with federal officials warning that some social distancing measures may need to remain in place through to the end of the year to prevent a new outbreak.
Places with declining infections and strong testing would begin a three-phased gradual reopening of businesses and schools - each phase lasting at least 14 days - to ensure that infections don't accelerate again.
In phase one, for instance, the plan recommends strict social distancing for all people in public. Gatherings larger than 10 people are to be avoided and non-essential travel is discouraged.
In phase two, people are encouraged to maximise social distancing where possible and limit gatherings to no more than 50 people unless precautionary measures are taken. Travel could resume.
Phase three envisions a return to normality for most Americans, with a focus on identification and isolation of any new infections.
Trump briefed the nation's governors on the plan on Thursday afternoon, saying they were going to be responsible for deciding when it is safe to lift restrictions in their states.
It came days after the president drew swift push back for claiming he had the absolute authority to determine how and when states reopen.
"We have a very large number of states that want to get going and they're in very good shape," Trump said.
"That's good with us, frankly."
- with Reuters and The Associated Press
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