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Acadiana funeral professionals stretched thin as COVID-19 deaths rise

Posted at 9:09 PM, Dec 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-22 23:19:11-05

As Louisiana's coronavirus death rate continues to rise, workers in the funeral industry say their jobs have become overwhelming.

Since the pandemic began in March, it has put a strain on local funeral homes.

As of Tuesday, the Louisiana Department of Health has reported 7,158 COVID-related deaths. 263 of them were reported in the last week, averaging nearly 38 deaths per day.

Melancon Funeral Home says they've seen an increase of services throughout the year. Many of them are working overtime to keep up with the increased rate of death.

"So far the end of this year from the 24th of November until today's date, we've had about the same percentage wise as we did in March earlier in the year."

Gerald Melancon is the President of Melancon Funeral Homes. He says his staff is trying to make it through the year and through this latest surge of COVID cases.

"The staff have been overworked a little bit. They had to learn some new things like video streaming, but we have a good staff. They will do what has to be done to make sure the families are accommodated,” Melancon explained.

Since the year began, the funeral home has serviced a total of 554 people. Of those, 46 were COVID-related. COVID-related deaths have contributed to 17% of their overall services.

"We've never had a young person below the age of 18 die of COVID. In the beginning, it was mostly nursing home people and they're in the older age group, 70 and older. The last few months it's been a mix of middle aged people and older,” said Melancon.

In addition to giving his employees time off, Melancon says he's also giving them other incentives.

"They've had a little extra bonuses throughout the year because we've found that they put in more time and they deserve something extra so we have done that for them in the past," added Melancon. "And I think they appreciate that."

As the Christmas holiday approaches, Melancon is imploring everyone to wear a mask.

"It's a preventative measure and I believe it does have an effect on if you contract COVID or not. I'd suggest you wear your mask and all times especially in the funeral home in contact with other family members,” said Melancon.

For families who aren't able to attend in person, Melancon says they will continue to provide live streaming services.

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