Los Angeles funeral homes have been pushed to the brink due to the Covid-19 catastrophe and families have to wait two to three months to bury loved ones.

Iran PressAmerica: The region’s funeral industry is collapsing amid the pandemic. It’s taking an unfathomable toll on grieving families.

The collapsing funeral industry is a particularly grim consequence of the coronavirus disaster in Los Angeles, one of the worst Covid hotspots in America. With an average of one death every six minutes and more than 200 deaths a day, every part of the system is overwhelmed with bodies, including funeral homes, mortuaries, cemeteries, crematories, the coroner’s office, the public health department, and hospital morgues.

According to the Guardian, many grieving families spend hours calling funeral homes, only to be told that the mortuaries are full for the foreseeable future. Those able to find a mortuary with capacity or get on a waiting list are told to wait more than a month for a service. And with phones ringing off the hook, some families say they can’t even figure out where their loved ones’ bodies are.

The crisis became so dire this week, with a backlog of more than 2,700 bodies stored at hospitals and the coroner’s office, that local air quality regulators announced the county would be lifting the limits on the number of cremations allowed in the region.

For many funeral directors, declining families is unprecedented. "We’ve been in business for 75 years and we’ve never had to turn away families," said Nichol Montague, the funeral director at the South Los Angeles Mortuary, which is located in one of the hardest-hit neighborhoods in the region.

"Families are calling me daily, saying can you just put me on a waiting list when you have space? And there is nothing we can do, it is so horrible."

In a sign of how dire the situation has become, Montague said she recently got a call from a woman whose grandmother had passed away at home and was having trouble finding anyone to pick up the body. "These families just want closure. It hurts."

Hugo Sanchez Laurel, the president of Optima Funeral Home in South LA, said he was temporarily closing his doors to new families until he can get through his current cases. During the end of the holiday season, he was turning down roughly 25 families a day, he said. Now, he’s advising distraught families to try calling mortuaries outside LA altogether. He doesn’t know what else to do.

US National Guard has been asked to help bury the dead

The national guard recently deployed to LA to help with the temporary storage of corpses, but some funeral directors have urged the county to provide more assistance, noting that the public health department is keeping normal business hours, which can delay permits and create a further bottleneck. Some are struggling to get overwhelmed doctors to sign death certificates, which also exacerbates the backlog.

When mortuaries shut down, the bodies pile up at hospitals. Martin Luther King Jr community hospital in South LA recently had to purchase a refrigerated truck after the on-site morgue reached capacity, said Jonathan Westall, the vice-president of ancillary services. When the truck, which had space for roughly 20 people, filled up, he added shelves to double the capacity. And when the shelves weren’t enough, he had to acquire a second truck.

It could all soon get worse, with Joe Biden warning on his second day in office that 100,000 more Americans could die in the next month and that the Trump administration had no vaccine distribution plan.