On any normal day, Police Chief Eric Danielson would have been taken aback by the grisly sight of 17 deceased elderly residents crammed inside a small nursing home morgue.
But in a time when the coronavirus can claim several hundred people in a day, with trenches dug to bury their bodies, Mr Danielson’s discovery of a New Jersey morgue stuffed with nearly four times the human bodies it could store did not shock him.
It was by far the highest number the New Jersey police officer had seen at any one point in time.
But as he told CNN, “based upon the pandemic and the numbers we saw coming out of the facility, I don’t know if I’m necessarily shocked about that”.
“It’s an unfortunate situation altogether,” Mr Danielson said.
The discovery came after police received an anonymous tip about a body being stored in a shed at Andover Subacute and Rehab Centre II, one of New Jersey’s largest nursing homes.
When they arrived, they found no bodies in the shed.
Then employees asked them to look inside the home’s morgue.
There, they found 17 body bags, each tagged with identification and containing the remains of a deceased elderly resident.
Nursing home officials said the morgue had the capacity for only four bodies.
Of the 17 remains, 13 were taken to a nearby refrigerated trailer.
“The staff was clearly overwhelmed and probably short-staffed,” Mr Danielson said.
“The residents were expiring. Why? We’re not sure if it’s from COVID-19 or from other diseases, but we tried our best to ease the burden.”
New Jersey is second to New York in America’s states worst-hit by the coronavirus with 68,824 infections and 2808 deaths.
At least 68 deaths, 26 from the coronavirus, have been recently linked to the two buildings that make up the nursing home, Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Centre I and II.
Two of the deceased were nurses. The cause of death for the rest was not reported.
At least another 76 residents and 41 staff members have tested positive for the virus.