Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office says COVID-19 response 'a team approach'

MILWAUKEE -- With the number of deaths in Wisconsin rising because of the pandemic, the medical examiner has been working with the department of emergency management to discuss resources. Meanwhile, how examiners are doing their day-to-day jobs has changed.

"So what we are trying to do is split into two teams," Dr. Brian Peterson said. The Chief Medical Examiner for Milwaukee County is keeping track of every COVID-19 death in the county.

Dr. Brian Peterson

They've been working alternate weeks.

"The hope is if maybe one group gets sick the other one can continues operations," Peterson said.

To keep themselves safe and able to do an essential job.

"At this point, we are keeping a spreadsheet of these kinds of cases we aren't bringing them in for autopsies.

As the number of deaths rise worldwide, causing some makeshift morgues to be put in place -- as of now in our area, that's not the case, there is fairly enough space -- but there is a plan in place if we see a sudden spike in deaths from the pandemic.

"We have a Conex box, it's a refrigerated storage box that will hold 50 bodies that is ready to go if necessary if there is capacity beyond that we would be talking to the state and the state department of emergency management has some other resources as well," Peterson said.

Milwaukee Medical Examiner's Office

The medical examiner says it's a team approach right now.

"We have to do our part and the local funeral directors have to do their part as week as well as these bodies sort of move through the system we haven`t seen a chose point yet but it all depends on number though," he said.

For the most part, COVID-19 deaths have occurred in the hospital, so Peterson will do the paperwork and issue the death certificate so there is no delay and loved ones can start making plans accordingly.

When it comes to their safety, of course, they use personal protective equipment (PPE) and the biggest concern right now is for the investigators who go out and examine cases in the field. The deceased are not particularly contagious, it's the living people around them that may have been exposed to the virus and they are being careful about that as well.