How the pandemic is impacting this East End funeral home

Miya Shay Image
Tuesday, July 21, 2020
How the pandemic is impacting this East End funeral home
DOUBLED IN CASES: A massive increase in business is something funeral home in Houston's East End says it has never seen before.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- For almost 90 years, Morales Funeral Home has been a cornerstone in Houston's East End.

A funeral home started by Christina Morales' grandparents is used to serving the city's Latino community, but it's never been this busy.

"This pandemic is something our family has never seen or experienced," said Morales, who is also the state representative for this area of Houston.

"Last year in June compared to this year in June, we have more than doubled our cases," she said.

The family-run funeral home started seeing an uptick in COVID-19 deaths months ago, and it hasn't let up.

"I would say seven out of 10 services right now are COVID," said Joe Morales, who is Rep. Morales' nephew and runs the day-to-day operations of the funeral home.

"Every day we have a service. We're booked for the next couple of weeks out, but we're just doing one a day to keep families separated," he explained.

In the hour we spent at the funeral home, ABC13 saw one funeral where the deceased died of non-coronavirus reasons.

But the very next funeral for Eleuterio Jaime would be a COVID-19 death case.

For families whose loved ones died of the virus, Morales Funeral Home is also limiting the attendees to just 15 people.

Everyone must practice social distancing in the chapel with masks as a requirement.

It is logistically, and emotionally, exhausting.

"We hear first-hand families who say they couldn't visit their loved ones in the hospital, and it's really hard to tell them you're only allowed 15 people inside the chapel," said Rep. Morales. "It's a difficult time for families."

The staff at the funeral home says they are not surprised to hear stories of refrigeration trucks at some hospitals or a shortage of body bags.

For a while, getting enough masks and gloves to service their clients was difficult. In addition, Joe says morgues are eager for them to pick up the bodies in order to make more room.

"We've never been like this ever," he says, adding, "we have probably doubled our numbers for the year."

On Monday, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced 884 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the city's total to 36,985. Seven more deaths were also added to the list, bringing the death toll to 329. He said six of the seven new deaths were Hispanics.

READ MORE: Mayor Turner asks city to be 'understanding' on city work delays amid COVID-19 pandemic

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