Sat | Jun 6, 2020

NY funeral homes struggle as virus deaths surge

Published:Friday | April 3, 2020 | 9:25 AM
Employee Gina Hansen (right) hands documentation to a client outside Daniel J. Schaefer Funeral Home Thursday, April 2, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

NEW YORK (AP) — Pat Marmo walked among 20 or so deceased in the basement of his Brooklyn funeral home, his protective mask pulled down so his pleas could be heard.

“Every person there, they’re not a body,” he said.

“They’re a father, they’re a mother, they’re a grandmother. They’re not bodies. They’re people.”

Like many funeral homes in New York and around the globe, Marmo’s business is in crisis as he tries to meet surging demand amid the coronavirus pandemic that has killed around 1,400 people in New York City alone, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.

His two cell phones and the office line are ringing constantly.

He’s apologising to families at the start of every conversation for being unusually terse, and begging them to insist hospitals hold their dead loved ones as long as possible.

His company is equipped to handle 40 to 60 cases at a time, no problem.

On Thursday morning, it was taking care of 185.

“This is a state of emergency,” he said.

“We need help.”

Funeral directors are being squeezed on one side by inundated hospitals trying to offload bodies, and on the other by the fact that cemeteries and crematoriums are booked for a week at least, sometimes two.

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