The Federal Emergency Management Administration recently paid $5.1 million for 100,000 body bags, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal — for a price of about $51 per bag. If the VA paid the same rate, it would have purchased nearly 6,000 bags — a number 12 times larger than the number of VA patients who have died from the disease.
But some retailers sell body bags for lower prices; BodyBagStore.com sells them for as little as $16.80, but limits on how many bags a customer can buy. And on Amazon, one vendor sells body bags for less than $15 each.
The department has struggled to handle the pandemic. Earlier this month, an internal memo leaked showing it didn’t have enough masks for all of its hospital staff, as CNN reported. That contradicted the department’s claim that personal protective equipment was available for all the employees who needed it. Almost 2,000 VA staffers have been diagnosed with Covid-19, according to The Washington Post, and VA workers have protested dangerous work conditions at facilities around the country.
In hard-hit jurisdictions, mortuaries, crematoriums and cemeteries have struggled to safely manage the large number of coronavirus victims’ bodies. POLITICO first reported that New York City’s morgues were nearing capacity back in March. Within weeks, the city’s infrastructure for safely storing and disposing of human remains was taxed in an unprecedented way. The city government buried numerous bodies in mass graves on Hart Island, which has long been its de facto Potter’s Field. And earlier this week, horrific news broke of human bodies left to rot in trucks outside a funeral home in Brooklyn. According to AM New York, some of the bodies were the remains of coronavirus victims.
Other jurisdictions have also balked at the prospect of handling the virus’ growing death counts. Maryland leased two ice skating rinks as possible storage spaces for bodies, and leaders in Spain and the U.K. have taken the same step.