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Funeral Home Workers Say They Are Overwhelmed As COVID-19 Deaths Continue To Rise

SIMI VALLEY (CBSLA) — As COVID-19 related deaths continue to rise across the state, workers at local funeral homes say they are simply feeling overwhelmed due to the increase in services.

Jennifer Finnerty, who works at Rose Family Funeral Home in Simi Valley, said they've held services for 15 COVID-positive loved ones since the start of December — one for almost every day this month.

Finnerty said her staff is feeling the pressure to keep up.

"We have definitely had the busiest year this year...unfortunately," Finnerty said. "We've seen spikes and we've seen things level off and then we've seen a spike again. So, it's really just trying to anticipate that and staff up and make sure that we're just able to care for all of our families the same."

Families that are forced to adapt to changes when it comes to memorializing a loved one.

"During COVID we have had to limit the number of people, we've had to move everything outdoors, we've turned our parking lot into an outdoor chapel, we've done drive-thru funerals," Finnerty said.

Bob Achermann, the executive director of the California Funeral Directors Association, said the organization is continuously working to relay updated information to funeral service practitioners to help the "last responders" stay afloat.

"I think it's always an overwhelming occupation day-to-day but now even more so the mortality rate is terrible," he said.

"The issue is managing that workload, dealing with the families. Many funeral homes have gone to instead of the families coming to the funeral home making arrangements, they don't do that anymore because they don't want to have gatherings of people. And then managing their staffs. They have families too. They go home, they are working longer, they have risk of exposure."

More than 20,000 people have died from COVID-19 statewide since the pandemic started.

Finnerty said these numbers are not just​ a statistic — they were real people whose families now have to live without them.

"They are somebody's someone and we want to care for and love on and take care of that family to the best ability that we can," she said.

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