Funeral homes and mortuaries overwhelmed by COVID-19 deaths

With so many people dying within a short period of time, it's not just hospitals overwhelmed. Funeral homes and mortuaries are also impacted. Some have had to take drastic measures.

Shipping containers usually leased to breweries and restaurants were being rented to ease the overflow of bodies -- victims of COVID-19.

"This is the first time we've seen containers being rented and outfitted to store the deceased," said Jake Knotts, co-owner of Mid-State Containers.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County surpassed 11,000 deaths. More than 1,000 people passed away in less than a week.

How bad is LA County's hospital crisis? Paramedic gives frontline view of desperate situation
EMBED More News Videos

With hospitals slammed with a critical level of patients, EMS units in L.A. County are being told not to transport those with a low chance of survival.

"We just don't have the amount of storage space, we don't have enough embalmers, we don't have enough funeral directors to take care of everyone," said Kimberly Worl, president of Orange County Funeral Directors Association.

Some mortuary and funeral home operators say they are having to turn away bereaved families due to lack of space.

One funeral director says he is advising families who call to find ice to keep bodies chilled until they can be picked up.

Hospitals also continue to be overwhelmed with a shortage of beds and staff.

Help from the USNS Mercy Hospital Ship won't be coming because it's tied up for maintenance. Though some support may be on the way.

"We are also due to receive two 20-person Department of Defense teams to be deployed at Harbor and one at LASUSC," said Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.

LA's hospital nightmare: Here's how ambulance service, 911 calls are impacted amid COVID-19 surge
EMBED More News Videos

It's a health care nightmare right now in LA County. With resources so scarce, hospitals have to focus on patients who have the highest chance of survival.

Dr. Anthony Cardillo, CEO of Mend Urgent Care, pleaded with people to help ease the burden on hospitals.

"It will be virtually impossible to get through this if people are gathering together and allowing for this virus to spread. This is no joke. We need everyone's cooperation, and please, do not gather in large groups. It is that simple," said Dr. Cardillo.

L.A. County says it's trying as quickly as possible to get the COVID-19 vaccines out to health care workers but acknowledges it's been slow. So far about 60% of the vaccines have been administered.

In Ukiah, what could have been a tragedy was being called heroic by some. A freezer containing the vaccine failed at Adventist Health with only 2 hours left before the vaccine expired.

Administrators bypassed priority lists, set up four clinics, began making calls and lines formed by word of mouth.

Math teacher Leslie Banta was among the 830 who got vaccinated.

The hospital said none of the 830 doses were wasted.
Copyright © 2021 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.