State leaders planning to buy facility to possibly store human remains, but some senators critical of the plan

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As the death toll from COVID-19 continues to rise, Minnesota is preparing for the worst. The state is ready to spend $6.9 million on a warehouse facility for "temporary storage of human remains" of COVID-19 patients.

“I understand a conversation about human remains is sensitive,” Sen. Scott Jensen, R-Chaska said. “[But] we make a mistake as policymakers when we start spending millions of dollars in an effort to prepare for a problem that very likely will not happen.”

State leaders say the number of COVID-19 deaths could climb, putting a stress on funeral homes, morgues and families.

“We believe we owe our loved ones, our neighbors, our friends, as well as their families, to be able to handle that appropriately, so that's what that $6.9 million is for,” Minnesota Emergency Management Director Joe Kelly said.

But Jensen said all the variables haven’t been discussed.

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“When you start looking at a mass storage facility, I don't think we have any expertise in making certain that we don't have transmissibility issues with viral, bacterial and potentially even fungal and spore transmission from one area of such a facility to another,” Jensen said.

State Sen. Rich Draheim, R-Madison Lake, said alternatives could be more feasible, including looking further into refrigerated trucks that would be mobile.

“I didn't think we needed to buy the building and I didn't think the death rate was there,” Draheim said

Minnesota has seen at least 614 COVID-19 related deaths, but the state says its best to plan ahead for what could happen.

“The storage in funeral homes and hospitals is in some places, full, and overflowing,” Kelly said. “We are in negotiations with the property owner and their agents, and we look forward to briefing that in the future.”

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reached out to the state, but officals said because the purchase isn't finalized, they can't disclose the location of the warehouse or give further details.