Rural East Texas funeral homes overwhelmed with spike in pandemic-related deaths

Rural East Texas funeral homes overwhelmed with spike in pandemic-related deaths

(KTRE) - As hospitalizations continue to rise, some rural East Texas funeral homes are seeing an increase in people listed as dying from COVID-19.

“I’ve buried a lot of people that I’ve known really well,” Bryon Starr said. “A couple of good friends yesterday. You see that with the business, but it is not this many this quick.”

Funeral Director Byron Starr says Starr Funeral Home in Hemphill has also seen a recent spike in deaths related to COVID-19.

“Before Christmas, and this is an estimate, about 14,” Starr said. “After Christmas 10. I’ve never seen this many from the same cause or this many from in cause in this short of span.”

Starr says this is not a case where all deaths are being attributed to COVID-19.

“Yesterday, within 24 hours, we picked up and had eight removals,” Starr said. “Three COVID, one possibly COVID-related and four non-COVID related. But it is definitely busier than we’ve ever been.”

In San Augustine, Funeral Director Alex Garner says since the pandemic started, Percy Garner and Sons Mortuary has prepared funerals for about eight people listed as dying from COVID-19.

“We’ve experienced a few cases,” Garner said. “Not as many as our surrounding funeral homes.”

“We treat every case as if they may have something but that is for our staff protection,” Garner said. “But we still make sure that everybody has that dignity and respect that you would allow to a family.”

Garner says as of last month, the funerals they prepared were non-COVID-19 related deaths, and they haven’t had any funerals attributed to the virus thus far this year.

“But it is still one of those unfortunate times for funeral homes to start having their surges whether it be natural causes or COVID-related causes,” Garner said.

“According to the Sabine County Judge, we may be on a downward trend from it because the fatalities usual happen after the spike,” Starr said. “It’s hard to tell at this moment. In a couple of weeks, we’ll know if it it’s a downward trend. I hope to God we’re not at the start of it.”

Both funeral directors say they are taking extra precautions with their staff and funeral attendees to keep people safe.

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