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'A Lot Of This Is Preventable': Funeral Home Capacity Shrinking As More People Die From COVID-19

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) -- As more people die from coronavirus, capacity at funeral homes in Southern California is also being impacted.

Bob Achermann, the executive director of the California Funeral Directors Association, said the influx of patients in hospitals and intensive care have caused funeral homes to prepare for increases of their own.

"I talked to one funeral home today that actually triages every night to see how many spaces they have available," Achermann said.

Some funeral homes are having a hard time keeping up with the demand, and are having to turn families away during their time of grieving.

"As people call in, they may have to tell a family that they simply can't help them because they don't have the capacity to do so," Achermann said.

Funeral homes are also concerned about having enough personal protective equipment to help keep their staff safe.

"We're going to hospitals, nursing homes, to people's homes to remove the deceased," Achermann said. "There's an exposure risk there. You never know what you're walking into."

With New Year's Eve just around the corner, health experts, who are also dealing with a drastic increase in coronavirus cases, are urging Americans not to gather and to take precautions seriously.

"It doesn't have to be like this. A lot of this is preventable, especially since we have two vaccines approved and multiple others that will be approved in the next few months," said Dr. Thomas Yadegar of Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center.

State leaders are working with funeral home directors to ensure they are recognized as essential workers so those employees can hopefully get the vaccine within the next few weeks.

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