ROYAL PALM BEACH, Fla. — Florida is seeing the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic with a record number of deaths. It's not only putting a strain on hospitals, but also funeral homes.
At Palms West Funeral Home in Royal Palm Beach, two more COVID-19 cases came in on Thursday and funerals are backed up.
"Just about every funeral home in Palm Beach County is working at capacity. We're close to that," said Julian Almeida, the funeral director and owner of Palms West Funeral Home. "It's heartbreaking the number of COVID victims, especially when the families do not get to see their loved ones in the hospital."
Almeida has handled more than 150 COVID cases since he started keeping track in July of last year. He said his refrigeration unit can accommodate more than 30 people, but he's inquired about expanding.
"We have contacted several places to see what it would cost to enlarge our refrigeration unit because we are gonna need it in the future," Almeida said.
Workers at Tillman Funeral Home and Crematory in West Palm Beach told WPTV they were too busy to go on camera, but they've been forced to turn some families away after seeing a 30% to 40% increase since the end of June.
There is a a current backlog at most funeral homes and crematories are operating almost all day long.
"We're not over it yet, but we will be shortly if everybody gets vaccinated and everybody helps each other by wearing a mask," Almeida said.
Because there are no state mandates, the funeral director said there is no longer a limit on the number of people that can attend a funeral.
But he says his staff is vaccinated and masks are encouraged.