Concerns and changes at medical examiners office amid COVID-19


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Performing autopsies is considered an essential business, but dealing with death amidst COVID-19 is concerning for medical professionals.

While the state medical examiners office doesn’t perform autopsies on bodies that have been diagnosed with COVID-19, they do have to be extra cautious to protect themselves from those that may not have been diagnosed or may have been exposed to the virus.

“Medical examiners are in charge of unnatural, unusual, suspicious deaths,” explained Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Feng Li.

However, any one of those deaths could be carrying COVID-19.

“We deal with a lot of unknown a lot of potential patients with this disease.”

That’s why Li says they have to treat every patient as though they are infected with the virus.

“We have to take extra precaution steps to prevent any potential spread of the virus in our office or through our personnel, our staff.”

He said non-essential staff is working from home while others are taking shifts. Typically there are 8 certified forensic pathologists in the office, but now he said they are limiting it to 2 and as usual they must wear protective gear.

“Everybody in our office, including myself is very, very worried and very, very, basically cautious. We deal with death and autopsy every day. We use face masks especially N95, face shields, gowns, caps, shoe covers,” Dr. Li went on to explain.

Autopsies can’t be done without protective gear and with a global shortage, Dr. Li said they are being more conservative with supplies.

“We will be more conservative just to prevent a potential shortage of these equipment especially N95, because now we can’t order them. Hopefully there will be supply shortly. We don’t want to panic, but we want to be vigilant and we want to be very careful.”

Dr. Li said they currently don’t have a shortage of personal protective equipment.

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