COVID-19 pushing morgues, funeral homes to limit across Southern California

REDLANDS, Calif. (KABC) -- The bodies are literally piling up. The coronavirus is pushing morgues and funeral homes across Southern California to the limit, and right now there is no end in sight.

"Our normal case load on any random month is about 25 to 30 families that we serve. December we had 62, and right now, as of January 19, we're well above 35 already," said Anthony Hernandez, funeral home director at Emerson Bartlett Memorial Chapel in Redlands.

The surge in deaths is unlike anything Hernandez has seen before, and it's created a back log that is forcing some families to wait weeks to pay their last respects.

"The earliest time that the cemetery can accommodate them is going to be Thursday, March 4. Here we are, it's January 19. We're leapfrogging even February going right into March," said Hernandez.

And it's not just the families struggling, the staff is feeling it too.

"We just can't keep this pace up for six months a year because we're working 24 hours a day," he said.

There are some signs virus cases are starting to go down, but sadly deaths tend to lag by several weeks. For Hernandez and other funeral directors that could mean the worst is not yet behind them.

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