ROCKFORD (WREX) — Throughout the pandemic, funeral homes across the world have been overwhelmed trying to keep up with the COVID-19 death toll.
But when one Rockford company learned funeral homes in Southern California needed help, it sprang into action with staff spending nearly a month in a coronavirus hotspot.
In 25 years, Jennifer Murasaki has seen her fair share of tragedies, but nothing like the dire situation happening right now in Southern Calfornia's funeral homes.
"I took care of more people in those three weeks than I may have in six months working here at home," Muraski explains. "90 percent of them were COVID-positive."
Muraski, the president of Rockford's Adept Funeral Staffing Solutions, Inc., which offers services like funeral preparations, got word funeral homes in Southern California were in desperate need of help.
"They weren't taking any new calls when I arrived — they weren't able to, they didn't have the resources or the staff or the room," Muraski says.
She spent most of February at one specific funeral home and saw first-hand the devastation of the virus.
"There were two refrigeration trucks behind the funeral home… hidden, but they were still there... and they were full," Muraski says.
Through Muraski, the owner of that funeral home, Lighthouse Memorials and Receptions, declined an interview request.
"Families were on a waiting list to bury their loved ones," Muraski explains.
Good-byes were put on hold for up to a month, and, in the meantime, more and more calls kept coming.
California's COIVD-19 deaths peaked on January 12 with 724 new daily deaths. The latest new count is from March 4 with 391 new daily deaths.
"They're dying in droves and it's just overwhelming the funeral homes and the coroner's offices and the hospitals," Muraski says.
And while the number of daily deaths is slowly dropping, it's unclear when Southern California funeral homes will start to see a break.
Muraski just recently returned to Rockford, and isn't sure if her services will be needed again in Southern California, but says it's possible she will need to make another trip.