Los Angeles County’s healthcare system was buckling Wednesday under the unprecedented surge of COVID-19 patients, with bodies piling up at morgues and medical professionals resorting to increasingly desperate measures as they brace for conditions to worsen in the coming weeks…

“No one would believe this is in the United States,” said Scott Byington, a critical care nurse at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood. “Everyone is doing what they can do. It’s not that anybody is slacking. It’s just that it’s too overwhelming for everyone.”

Hospital morgues are so full that the National Guard is being called in to help county workers as corpses are moved into storage at the L.A. County Department of the Medical Examiner-Coroner. The overcrowded crypts at hospitals are a result of private mortuaries running out of space and staff to handle the unprecedented number of COVID-19 deaths.

The deteriorating conditions came as Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that a new, potentially more contagious variant of the coronavirus identified in the United Kingdom had been found in Southern California, though officials said the findings were not unexpected and should not cause undue alarm.