Florida funeral homes work overtime to help families impacted by COVID-19 deaths

Funeral workers said the worst of the pandemic hit late this summer

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – COVID-19 deaths are keeping funeral homes across Florida busy as workers do their best to provide quality service to families who have lost loved ones.

Managing director of Highland Funeral Home in Apopka Richard Prindiville has had an up-close look at how COVID-19 is impacting funeral workers.

“From what I’ve seen, I wouldn’t wish this upon anybody, I pray to God every day this gets better in the long run,” Prindiville said.

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When he isn’t meeting with grieving families or taking calls, staff are feeling the heavy burden of helping families say goodbye while taking safety precautions.

“The biggest thing that I learned as a funeral director is we never said no to families, in the past year we have had to learn to say no,” he said.

The increase in COVID-19 deaths has not only changed their operations but it’s also changed how families commemorate their loved ones.

“We’re asking families difficult questions when they first walk in the door, ‘did your loved one pass away from an infectious disease?’ and ‘were they suspected of having COVID?’ It was difficult because it felt like you were interrogating a family, as times went on, we were able to say to a family, we’re doing this to protect our staff,” Prindiville said.

The funeral business felt the pain of COVID-19 in the spring of 2020 but funeral workers in Florida said the worst of the pandemic hit late this summer.

“Well then the end of July started hitting and then it’s like, OK, we got another COVID case, then we got another COVID case,” he said.

What followed was unlike anything he had ever seen.

“Then we get into August, August, I can tell you we tripled our call volume. On average we do 14 to 15 calls a month, last month we did close to 40,” he said.

A newly released report by the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed the month of August was the deadliest peak in daily deaths since the pandemic began. It’s that sharp rise keeping funeral homes and suppliers busy.

“As far as our vault suppliers they have already informed us, they are two weeks out and it’s the same thing with services, we have services scheduled next week, we have one slot available next week in the cemetery and we have four slots every day,” Prindiville said.

Despite a challenging year for families, Prindiville assures families a memorable celebration of life can still be arranged for loved ones.