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Bay Area cemetery nears capacity as COVID-19 deaths surge

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SAN MATEO COUNTY, Calif. (KRON) – As the COVID-19 death toll rises in the Bay Area, frontline workers are tested each day.

However, they’re not the only ones living the morbid reality.

Funeral homes and cemeteries have experienced a spike in services needed over the last couple of months.

One of those funeral homes is Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma, San Mateo County.

“They’re not only going through the emotional process with these families but they also have to go home and have dinner with their family and talk about what everybody’s talking about right now and it’s a lot. It’s a lot emotionally for our team,” Robert Gordon said.

President and CEO of Cypress Lawn Cemetery Robert Gordon says right now they’re at about 85% of their capacity.

“We had gone out and purchased some containers that had coolers to get ready for something that might happen and hadn’t used them up until about a month ago. In November, we started seeing a significant surge where right now we’re serving or helping probably 4 to 5 more families that are impacted by COVID-19,” Gordon said.

And that’s after they already quadrupled their capacity early on in the pandemic with things like the refrigerated containers.

However, due to this current surge, Gordon worries more space will be needed.

The funeral home purchased containers with coolers at the beginning of the pandemic to expand capacity, if needed.

“The challenge for a space in all funeral homes has gotten more tricky because now if a person dies of COVID-19 typically if the family wants to have a service they need to quarantine for 14 days which means I need to keep the decedent in my care for an extra 10 to 14 days which puts a strain on our capacity,” Gordon said.

They haven’t had to use them until now.

They say they’re now serving 4 to 5 times the number of families that are impacted by COVID.

“Certainly in the last couple months, it pushed us where right now I’ve been on the phone trying to purchase more cooler containers, and right now my team is building a container in the building next door just in case we push beyond what we can take care of,” Gordon said.

The funeral hopes to see a slow down and stop to COVID deaths as vaccinations continue.

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