BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — As COVID-19 deaths continue to pile up, some funeral homes are trying to figure out ways to handle the high demand for their services. For one Kern County business, they're busy not only processing local deaths but also for other communities in Southern California.
It’s still a busy time for funeral homes during the pandemic. At Greenlawn, they are seeing a more than 50 person increase in their services as they continue to help surrounding cities, and when it comes to cremations, restrictions that limited how many could process in places like Tehachapi were updated.
"I am not trying to be doom and gloom but I want people to air cautiously and I want people to take is serious and be safe but there is a tidal wave coming I fear," said Jim Lamar, president of Greenlawn Funeral Homes.
For more than a year now many funeral homes, like Greenlawn have been battling to meet the high demand that the COVID-19 pandemic is bringing when it comes to deaths. Jim Lamar of Greenlawn Funeral Homes says that they are seeing more than double amount of families they are serving, and to meet the need they are now working six days a week.
"We have already met for January the entire number that we have served for last January and we are just halfway through the month, so we know it's a high influx of death,” added Lamar.
The funeral home is not only managing the needs of Kern County but is also helping other surrounding areas that have reached their capacity on storage and cremation.
"We have been getting calls from Southern California, could they bring people up here for us to cremate because they are just they are telling families we can't serve you and are having to call around to find someone who can," said Lamar.
Lamar says pre-pandemic they were cremating four bodies a day but now it’s up to 10 per crematory. Previously air quality restrictions may have put a limit on that, however, thanks to special permission from the San Joaquin Valley Resource Board, double digits are now possible in places like Tehachapi which did have a prior restriction.
"And what we are starting to see actually in our crematorium in Tehachapi they lifted the limit because the people/funeral homes are already surpassing their limit at the rate they are going to far exceed what's been deemed legal. So they are making an emergency determination on the number of people we can cremate in a year," added Lamar.
Greenlawn says at the moment Bakersfield has not reached the point where they would need to relax air quality restrictions regarding cremations but say they are monitoring it closely.