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Funeral homes across US being overwhelmed by COVID-19 crisis

Many bracing for another wave of coronavirus deaths
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Posted at 3:39 PM, Jan 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-19 15:39:00-05

Gravesites are filling up fast across one of America’s largest cemeteries.

“We’ve seen an increase since the beginning of the coronavirus, but more so during this latest surge,” said Antoinette Lou, a spokesperson for Rose Hills Memorial Park and Mortuary, a 14,000-acre site in Southern California.

She says calls about services have increased 200% in the last month.

“We’ve been around for over 100 years and have not seen anything of this size,” Lou said. “A lot of the cases coming in, hospitals are overwhelmed.”

That increase in deaths is delaying services at Rose Hills up to four weeks. Now, staff is stretched thin and working extra hours, something that’s happening in other funeral homes across the country.

“It’s something we say you would see in a movie. Its that’s bad in this area,” said Jose Amezcua, manager of Sunset Funeral Homes in El Paso, Texas.

He says his staff is seeing four times the amount of deaths this year compared to the same time last year.

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years myself and it’s nothing like we’ve ever seen before,” Amezcua said.

To help handle the increase, Sunset recently installed additional units to store the deceased.

While both Rose Hills and Sunset are still offering in-person funerals, they’ve also started offering virtual arrangements.

“Emotionally, it’s very difficult for the families and we feel for them,” Amezcua said. “We’re human as well and it takes a toll on everyone.”

It takes an emotional toll as funeral service providers brace for what could be another wave of deaths, and they work to provide proper burials to allow families to say their last goodbyes.

“It just puts the reality check of how dangerous COVID-19 really is.” Amezcua said.