ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — With mounting COVID-19 deaths in Monroe County, tractor-trailers will be used for storage.
Officials say 64 bodies can fit on each tractor-trailer. People who die from COVID-19, as well as those who die from non-COVID-19 related reasons, can be stored on the tractor-trailers, according to officials from the Monroe County Department of Public Health.
At this point, bodies have not been stored in tractor-trailers, but county officials say they expect this process to begin soon, adding that COVID-19 is the reason for this process. They say funeral homes are limiting the number of funerals they can conduct at a time, causing a delay in funerals while there is a local increase in deaths due to COVID-19.
A related issue is that if someone dies from COVID-19, their family could be infected as well, so they can’t have a funeral immediately, or family can’t come from out of town.
Shawn Watson is the funeral director at Memories Funeral Home. He says he’s been taking precautions during funeral services.
“If there’s any overflow what we do is set up the chapel so people can view and go out the door, we have staff at the front of our doors with hand sanitizer,” he said.
Watson said business has remained steady for him, but he’s also talked to families who are waiting to hold a funeral during this time.
“I explained to the families it’s up to you if you want to hold the body out but I wouldn’t recommend doing withheld services. I wouldn’t recommend that only because of safety and holding the body that long the embalming process and things like that, so I’ve been encouraging them to go ahead and do the service and whoever comes, comes,” Watson said.
Watson said anyone who chooses to go forward with a service will be allowed to video record it.At this time, there are currently 26 reported COVID-19 deaths in Monroe County, officials announced Monday afternoon.
Additionally, Monroe County will open a space to store bodies. Officials said this in an email Tuesday:
“Monroe County has opened a Decedent Holding Area (DHA) to address an anticipated shortage of mortuary space at local hospitals and funeral homes. This facility, located at the County Fleet Center on Paul Road, is expected to begin operation this week and can currently accept up to 128 decedents.
The DHA is necessary for a variety of reasons. In addition to an increase in local deaths related to COVID-19, funeral homes are limiting the number of funeral services they conduct during this crisis to maintain social distancing and sanitization measures. This is causing a delay.
Furthermore, a number of other issues are making it difficult for some families to have a funeral at this time. For example, some family members may be too ill or unable to travel.”
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.