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Nov. 24, 2020, 6:31 a.m. EST

'Not only is this assignment physically taxing, but it may be emotionally taxing,’ says ad for morgue attendants in Texas

‘Our community has not taken the necessary measures to stop the spread of the virus,’ says county judge

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By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch


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Inmates in El Paso County Detention Center have been roped in to help deal with the county’s COVID-19 deaths

El Paso County in Texas published a grim want ad late Thursday, calling for morgue attendants to carry out the task of dealing with its growing number of COVID-19 deaths:

‘All applicants must be able to lift between 100 to 400 lbs., with assistance. Not only is this assignment physically taxing, but it may be emotionally taxing as well.’

The attendants who are hired will be provided maximum personal protective equipment, and will receive a COVID test prior to starting the job, says the ad.

The county has already started using low-level offenders from the county jail to help deal with the deceased, the El Paso Times reported. County Judge Ricardo Samaniego ruled that it will continue that practice until it has enough new hires.

In a guest column published Thursday in the El Paso Times, Samaniego said it has become clear “that our community has not taken the necessary measures to stop the spread of the virus.” He noted that in the last two years the county has had to deal with a refugee crisis and the racially motivated August 2019 shooting at a Walmart store that killed 23 people and injured another 23.

“It is understood why El Pasoans are experiencing COVID-19 fatigue, in my opinion more so than other communities, as we’ve had to endure these tragedies back to back,” the judge wrote. “In this community, we always come together under disastrous conditions. Now we are asking our people to support each other from afar.”

See also: Doctors in rural hospitals speak out about COVID-19: ‘There isn’t any hospital that isn’t under siege’

Samaniego called on El Pasoans to be especially careful during the coming Thanksgiving holiday, noting that other holidays this year have resulted in spikes in positive cases. “Traveling this holiday season will only further increase positive cases in our community,” he wrote.

El Paso on Thursday had 247 bodies at the morgue and inside nine refrigerated trailers that were required to handle the overflow. The county has seen almost 100 COVID-19 deaths since Sunday, and the causes of an additional 435 fatalities are still being investigated.

Don’t miss: South Dakota emergency-room nurse says some patients insist COVID-19 isn’t real even as they’re dying from it

The county has had 77,977 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the start of the outbreak, according to the Texas Health Department. That makes it the third most affected county in Texas after Harris County and Dallas County. At least 876 people have died. El Paso County has a population of 839,239, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

El Paso currently has 35,160 active cases, the most in the state, and has averaged 1,310 new cases a day over the last week, according to a New York Times tracker.

Texas has had more than 1 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, and at least 20,565 Texans have died, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

Ciara Linnane is MarketWatch's investing- and corporate-news editor. She is based in New York.

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