MCALLEN, Texas – The COVID-19 crisis in the Rio Grande Valley is overloading funeral homes. So much so, some funeral homes are rejecting people who died from COVID-19.
“Crematories are backed up, caskets are in short supply. It’s effecting everyone in the funeral industry,” said Aaron Rivera.
He runs Rivera Funeral in McAllen. He stopped taking clients because the availability to keep bodies cool until the funeral.
“If a person is going to be cremated then we don’t do any embalming so the body is not preserved. The body needs to be in refrigeration so the body does not start the natural stages of decomposition. Crematories are making us make appointments which is about 7-10 days away. If you can’t refrigerate the body then you run into problems,” said Rivera.
Johnny Salinas is taking on the families who were denied at other funeral homes. He runs Salinas Funeral Home in Brownsville and is receiving bodies from all over the RGV.
“We haven’t been backed up because we have the ability to use both our chapels at the same time,” said Salinas.
This is something Salinas never experienced before.
“We would do 7-12 cases a month, we’ll probably meet with two families a week. Right now, at each firm we’re meeting with four to five families a day,” he said.
For families looking to transport bodies to Mexico, they won’t be able to because the Mexican consulate isn’t accepting bodies that tested positive of COVID-19.
We’ve had few families that done direct cremation and bury the ashes in Mexico.
Salinas continues to see families looking to give their loved one a last goodbye, he’s hoping for change.
“We’re praying that it does because the workload is very heavy on myself and our staff. The way we’re seeing things everyday there’s a lot of people passing away from COVID-19,” he said.
We reached out to multiple funeral homes in the area. Most say they can store up to 3-7 bodies. As more deaths happen, they stress the need for more refrigerated trucks.