Work to winterize COVID-19 'intake trailer' at Lake County coroner's office underway
As COVID-19 infection rates spike throughout the suburbs, work has begun to winterize the area where bodies are tested for the virus and quarantined before being moved into the Lake County coroner's office in Waukegan.
Since spring, bodies have been first brought to a trailer just outside the building if the COVID-19 status is not known. To protect employees in the coroner's office, the bodies are tested there before being moved.
The "intake trailer" has temporarily housed more than 270 bodies since its installation, Coroner Howard Cooper said Tuesday.
"It's really important for the safety of our people," said Cooper, adding that the virus stays viable after a person's death. "Every body is tested unless they come from a hospital where they'd already been tested."
Cooper said being able to test bodies when the COVID-19 status is unknown also means that his office can inform funeral directors as well as the person's family and friends.
"They might not realize it and this allows them to know," Cooper said.
Work crews will soon begin putting up walls and a roof to protect the area between the intake trailer and the main building from winter weather.
"It wouldn't be a safe area if we just had a couple of tarps and there was snow and ice," Cooper said. "This way it's a structured area that vehicles can back right up to."
Cooper said the work is being funded by part of the $700,000 in federal CARES Act money his office has received. He said that money has also been used to purchase new machines that make performing autopsies on those with COVID-19 safer.
"We're really fortunate to have received that CARES Act money," Cooper said.
He said the construction has been planned for about three months because the Lake County Health Department anticipated a spike in the infection rate around November.
Cooper said the structure around the intake trailer will be taken down in the spring when the weather improves.