As COVID-19 continues to surge across the nation, Southern California funeral homes are running out of space.
According to the New York Post, families are being turned away because bodies are piling up.
The head of the state funeral directors association reports that mortuaries are being inundated as the nation nears 350,000 COVID-19 deaths. In the U.S., more than 20 million have contracted the virus, Johns Hopkins University reported.
“I’ve been in the funeral industry for 40 years and never in my life did I think that this could happen, that I’d have to tell a family, ‘No, we can’t take your family member,’” said Magda Maldonado, owner of Continental Funeral Home in Los Angeles.
Maldonado’s funeral home is now averaging 30 bodies a day, six times its regular intake. As a result, those in the field call one another to see who has space; usually, the answer is no.
Maldonado has rented extra 50-foot refrigerators for two of her four facilities to help keep up with the flood of bodies. Her companies are in LA and surrounding counties and have delayed pickups from hospitals for a day or two to deal with their residential clients.
The spike in deaths has caused cremations and burials to be delayed. Usually, cremations occur within a day or two, but it now takes a week or longer, Bob Achermann, executive director of the California Funeral Director’s Association, stated. There is also a delay in embalming bodies and getting death certificates.
Achermann told the news outlet that in the southern part of Cali, “every funeral home I talk to says, ‘We’re paddling as fast as we can.’”
“The volume is just incredible, and they fear that they won’t be able to keep up,” he said. “And the worst of the surge could still be ahead of us.”
Los Angeles is the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis and has surpassed 10,000 virus-related deaths. Hospitals are strained and continue to struggle to maintain essential resources such as oxygen. They are seeing an unprecedented number of patients experiencing respiratory problems.
According to Johns Hopkins data, the average for reported new cases over the past seven days is 195,000 and 2,500 deaths—which is a decline from two weeks ago.
But with the recent celebration of holidays, it’s feared that cases will rise once again.
Officials believe the number is far higher than what is reported because some people don’t get tested or don’t have symptoms.