Funeral homes deal with spike in deaths due to COVID-19

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – New numbers released this week show in the U.S., the number of people who have died from COVID-19 has officially surpassed that of the Spanish Flu of 1918, making this America’s deadliest pandemic.

Alabama is no exception, marking more total deaths in 2020 than any other year in state history – and for all of the families impacted, the next step is laying their loved ones to rest.

Funeral homes are there to help families say goodbye. They say that’s still their main priority, even as they face challenges they never thought they would.

“The first wave was very challenging for the industry. Its something that we’ve never seen before. This wave seems to be even more challenging,” Serenity Funeral Home Managing Director Jackie Brown said.

She says it is challenging for an entirely new reason: demand for essential items like caskets and printed obituaries far outweigh supply.

“Initially we were able to call our vendors and say, ‘hey, I’d like to order this in this particular color or this particular size. Now its a matter of ‘what do you have available?’ she said. “All avenues of funeral services are just receiving setbacks or challenges if you will.”

Those at Serenity Funeral Home in Huntsville said they don’t have exact numbers, Brown thinks services have at least doubled since the pandemic started. She says death certificates confirm, victims of the virus are now their main burials.

From bringing on additional staff to offering virtual services, she says they’re doing all they can to keep up. Brown also says this spike is something they have never seen before – and while last year was a challenge, this year has been even worse for a new reason: demand for essential items like caskets and printed obituaries far outweighs supply.

“The turnaround time may be a little slow, or there are instances of us having to wait on the delivery where we actually have to go and pick that casket up or we actually have to go pick those printing materials up versus waiting on those to be delivered to us,” she said.

When asked when she thinks supply will catch up to demand, Brown says it likely won’t be anytime soon.

“Personally, I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” she said. “Its something that we’ve never faced before and it is challenging but Serenity does remain committed to making sure our families receive lasting life celebrations.”

She says the main priority though is still making sure each family is taken care of, and they will continue doing what it takes to give them exactly what they want.

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