South Florida Funeral Homes Struggling to Keep Up With High Demand

Funeral directors and staff have been on the front lines throughout the entire COVID pandemic

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More than 55,000 Floridians have died from COVID-19. As with the number of cases, deaths are starting to trend downward, but local funeral homes are struggling to keep up with the demand. 

The funeral director at St. Fort's Funeral Home in North Miami Beach says around March 2020, the demand for funerals more than doubled.

"We've had families that have had to push their funeral services back three weeks," said Evans St. Fort, CEO of St. Fort's. 

At St. Fort's they went from having about five funerals a day to 10 to 15 per day. 

"We were hit as hard as the healthcare providers in terms of the physical demands," Gary Freytag, President of the International Cemetery, Cremation, and Funeral Association.

Funeral directors and staff have been on the front lines the entire pandemic. They say it is a tough balancing act between helping families find closure, staffing constraints, and overall availability.

"If you need a death certificate you know usually you can get one within a week but now families are having to wait for weeks and same with cremation. The crematories are backed up," said St. Fort. 

According to the president of the International Cemetery, Cremation, and Funeral Association, in the United States, cremations are going up. About 53% of people are choosing cremation over burial.

"During the pandemic, a lot of people said, well if I can't have a service I'm just going to have mom or dad cremated and then I'll wait and come back, and we've seen a huge uptick in cremation placements in our cemetery this year," said Freytag. 

Aside from the long hours, St. Fort says seeing so many deaths due to the virus has taken an emotional toll. He's held a large number of funerals for people in the black community.

"We have three individuals from the same family who passed away that we did their funeral for," said St. Fort. 

Additional staff and more overall interest in the industry can help alleviate the delays, says St. Fort. 

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