National Guard team assists Wisconsin coroners

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Members of the Wisconsin Air National Guard's 115th Fighter Wing are assisting the state's medical examiners with mortuary operations during the coronavirus pandemic.

A special team is helping coroners remove and handle those who have died, transport their bodies, clean and decontaminate.

Team member, Master Sgt. Steven Ulrich, said a local coroner's normal workload doesn't stop just because there is a pandemic in their communities.

"Every time you watch the death toll tragically rise from this disease that only tells a portion of our story," Ulrich said. "There are still deaths of natural causes, and, sadly, many deaths of despair, which tax our country's decedent management capacity."

Tech. Sgt. Samuel Keizer said many counties, especially in the northern part of the state, have little to no morgue space and could be overwhelmed by even a slight increase in deaths.

"The biggest piece of the FSRT (Fatality Search and Recovery Team) mission is to provide closure to families and loved ones after each event and to provide additional storage to counties where we are able to preserve the decedents," Keizer said.

In Dane County, the team has provided more than 576 hours of assistance to the Medical Examiner's office by handling 47 people who have died.

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