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Coronavirus Pandemic Taking A Toll On Cemetery Workers

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) - Interments have doubled compared with the same period last year, and that is overwhelming for many emotional cemetery workers.

At Greenfield Cemetery in Uniondale, bells toll in the season of sorrow. A final message of love is tucked into a casket as family members pray from their cars.

Overwhelmed employees are doing their best to keep up.

"Me and my guys here, we're trying our hardest to make sure we send off everybody's loved one the right and proper way," said Denzel Gaither.


Normally, only Town of Hempstead residents are buried at Greenfield Cemetery. Rules had to be relaxed, explains Town Supervisor Don Clavin.

"The Town of Hempstead is the only township that actually has a cemetery. They would average about five or less burials a day. Today, we have 22," Clavin told CBS2's Jennifer McLogan.

Hearses line up and religious leaders comfort from afar. Services are limited to ten people - some are recording the proceedings. Families are asked to move on after 30 minutes.

"It's hard. I just tell them, you're not alone. I feel your pain," Greenfield Cemetery Supervisor George Graydon said.

Graydon says it's taking a toll on the staff, who are working with the utmost dignity and respect.

"I've never seen it like this before. I'm kind of emotionally attached to this place, because I have a child buried here," Graydon said.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The cemetery is scheduling burials only for the week ahead, and is now opening a new section in its 158 acres to spread out burials.

"Fifteen to twenty graves a day. We've got to dig them, got to load the bodies and then the families sitting out here got to go through this. It's very tragic," said cemetery worker Carl Trice.

"When this pandemic is over, we are asking families, they can come back, they can spend more time graveside. It's very unfortunate that these restrictions have to be in place," Clavin said.

PHOTO GALLERY: Coronavirus Shutdown 30 Days In

Some workers admit to taking their tears home.

Workers are trying to dig as many graves as possible the night before, but are often working overtime and without breaks to meet the task, McLogan reported.

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