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Local funeral homes support backup ‘trailer morgue’ as demand rises

Published: Dec. 2, 2020 at 11:13 PM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - McLennan County funeral homes and crematoriums, which have been meeting with county health leaders about their needs during the pandemic, are backing the idea of a refrigerated trailer morgue as a safety net.

On Wednesday McLennan County and City of Waco officials announced the state has sent the county a refrigerated trailer to serve as a temporary, 40-space morgue--if needed--because of COVID-19.

“Better to have it and never need it, than to desperately need it and not have it,” said Kris Rhodes, Funeral Director and Acting Manager at Grace Gardens Funeral Home & Crematorium in Woodway. “I like to think that it’s all going to be ‘okay’, but I am thankful that our judges and our city is being proactive.”

Grace Gardens is one of the several funeral homes that’s been involved in group phone and zoom calls with county health leaders and justices of the peace to discuss their situations and needs.

Rhodes says, with COVID-19, they’ve been busier, but it’s been manageable.

“It’s not been unreasonable, it’s not been undoable,” said Rhodes. “Last month was a little busy, more so than normal.”

Grace Gardens, which is part of the Higginbotham Funeral Homes of Texas family, also provides service for Oakcrest Funeral Home and Pecan Grove Funeral Home.

In November, she says 86 people went through their care center--16 were COVID cases.

“Not all came through Grace Gardens Funeral Home, but they did come through our care center, some of them were Bosque County or Hill County,” she said.

A body can be in their care anywhere between four and ten days, Rhodes says, however, although they’re a little fuller than normal, she says they aren’t struggling for space...at least not yet.

While she doesn’t think they will need to use the mobile morgue, she’s heard others might.

“We’ve had some relief, our crematory operator has been working around the clock, our care team has been working around the clock to keep our capacity under control, the mortuary service, however, they have not had any relief, and they are at capacity,” said Rhodes.

Rhodes hopes the neighboring counties who rely on McLennan County’s third-party mortuary service will step up to provide some relief before the situation takes a turn for the worse.

“I don’t think people realize how many communities we serve like Limestone, Freestone, Hill, Bosque...all of those people are in McLennan County, the mortuary service that’s in McLennan County serves Bell County, there’s a lot of communities that feed into us and our hospitals,” said Rhodes.

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