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We should no longer be shocked by the decisions we all face

Earlier this week, Warren County Coroner Doug Huskey made a request of the Warren County Board of Supervisors.

It was a request that made all the sense in the world but provided a bit of a shock to those both in the room and those who read the story of its request.

Huskey said he needed more space — space for bodies.

The COVID-19 pandemic holds the No. 1 spot on just about everyone’s mind, is in the midst of everyone’s conversation and has a rightful place in just about every decision. It is understandable that this request is associated with the virus.

But while Huskey’s request of a mortuary storage unit that would hold at least three bodies is driven in part to an uptick in natural deaths — some of which are connected to COVID-19 — it is not the only reason.

Huskey’s concerns are driven mainly for those bodies and deaths connected to natural causes, but those not of natural causes must wait for space at the state crime laboratory and an autopsy to determine the cause of death or collect information needed in a criminal investigation.

Recently, Huskey did not have a spot at a local funeral home — a network used by Huskey for bodies to be stored — and was forced to transport a body to a location in Jackson. This led to his request, which was presented in a public meeting and discussed at a public building.

During that conversation, supervisors asked for the county’s purchasing agent, Tonga Vinson, to examine if it would be more cost-effective to look at a larger unit than the three-drawer model requested by Huskey. They wanted to know if buying a larger unit would be a better use of taxpayer dollars and give Huskey more options, more space if and when needed.

That request for a larger unit and that discussion — at a time when the pandemic is at its worst thus far — understandably made people jump to a conclusion, think the worst. But the worst is not why such a decision or conversation was had.

We applaud supervisors for thinking down the road, rather than just for today. If the county is going to spend thousands of dollars on a piece of equipment that is obviously needed, then why not explore all the options? It is what we ask of our elected leaders when they decided to spend money.

The reality is that our state crime lab is understaffed, underfunded, overworked and unable to process evidence, or bodies, in a timely fashion. That is a fact. That has and will continue to put strains on coroners throughout the state.

The other reality is that COVID-19 is killing people. At last count, Huskey and his office have had to deal with 34 COVID-19 deaths — 24 of which involved Warren County residents. There will be more. If this is a shock, then so be it. It is a reality — a fact — then we must realize and act accordingly.

COVID-19 has put a strain on everyone, on every system, in every profession. Our elected and public officials are not immune — figuratively and literally. They are facing decisions on a scale not one of us can fully appreciate and thus deserve our compassion, our patience and most importantly, our prayers.

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