Inmates paid $3 an hour to load bodies into US coronavirus morgues
Confronting footage of prisoners in Texas moving bodies into temporary overflow morgues has highlighted the mounting coronavirus death toll in the US.
Inmates from El Paso County Jail, filmed wearing black and white prison uniform and PPE, are being paid $US2 ($3) an hour, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office confirmed.
Leading US epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding described the footage of prisoners pushing gurneys carrying bodies inside large refrigerated trailers as "chilling".
"They've been doing this tough work since (last) Monday," Dr Feigl-Ding wrote on Twitter. "I cry for El Paso."
Dr Feigl-Ding urged people to carefully count the 10 refrigerated morgue trailers.
"They are piled up outside El Paso's medical examiners office because the backlog is just that huge to process," he said.
The US surpassed 11 million coronavirus cases today, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Nationwide, more than 246,000 people have died, including 1266 new deaths reported on Saturday.
According to local Fox News channel KFOX14, the morgues in El Paso are overwhelmed, just like the city's hospitals.
A spokesperson from the El Paso County Sheriff's Office said a deputy and two detention officers observe the inmates carrying out their duties.
The inmates were only supposed to work from Monday to Friday, on eight-hour shifts.
But because the death toll is so steady, the prisoners are also working weekends.
The inmates who are helping are are in jail on misdemeanors, the spokesperson told KFOX14.
The Federal Emergency Management Administration sent the morgue trailers to assist with the rising number of COVID-19 deaths in El Paso.
Texas eclipsed one million COVID-19 cases last week with El Paso holding the most cases statewide.