Florida funeral homes, morgues backed up amid COVID surge

Southeast

MIAMI (NewsNation Now) — The surge of COVID-19 in Florida is causing a delay in funerals.

Some funeral homes can’t pick up bodies because they, too, are overwhelmed. Others are so backed up the soonest they can bury loved ones is two weeks away.

“If someone wanted an additional service this week, I would not be able to accommodate that,” Wayne Bright said. He’s the general manager of the Wilson Funeral Home in Tampa. His team has 11 funerals scheduled for the next three days.

Prior to this latest wave of the virus, Callahan Funeral Home in Callahan, Florida had not handled arrangements for any COVID-19 victims since April. That has since changed. Owner Ellis McAninch said he’s overseen funerals for five people who died from the virus from July through mid-August — more than half his total business.

Despite his age, his proximity to virus deaths, a chronic lung illness and his own recent bout with COVID-19, the 61-year-old McAninch had still not been vaccinated when he spoke to a reporter recently. He said at first he was wary of how quickly the shots were developed. But then he decided he had spent too long waiting to make up his mind.

“I should have already had this done,” he said. “Now it’s just time to bite the bullet.”

While the development of the vaccines was unusually fast, it was the culmination of many years of research. The vaccines went through clinical trials involving thousands of people and have since been given to tens of millions of people over the past eight months with no serious safety concerns.

Hospital morgues are also backed up. At least 10 Central Florida hospitals have called in refrigerated trucks as overflow. Not all are in use, but they are on standby.

Bright said he’s worked with some families multiple times in this surge.

“I know what it’s like to make arrangements with a family for someone who passed from COVID-19, and then a few weeks later you are serving [another member] because they passed.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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