East Texas funeral homes see rise in COVID-19 related deaths

Chris Stewart of Stewart Funeral Home says the majority of the deaths they see this time around were not vaccinated.
Published: Sep. 2, 2021 at 9:28 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 2, 2021 at 11:02 PM CDT

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - As the number of COVID-19 patients in area hospitals continues to rise, East Texas funeral homes say they’re seeing another increase in COVID-19 related deaths.

At Stewart Funeral Home in Tyler, general manager Chris Stewart says in July they received one body of a person who died of COVID-19. In August, they received eight.

“It is different now because there is a preventative. The hospitals may be full and we’re getting busier, but it seems like it’s not as busy as it was at that time when we first started out in the early parts of 2020,” Stewart said.

Stewart says they received more people who died of COVID during previous peaks. At that time, funerals were restricted to a small group and masks were required.

“Back then when there was so many unknowns, we weren’t even allowing the families to view. We would remove the body, place it in the casket, lock the casket, and wouldn’t allow anybody to view at that time but now we’re allowing that to happen,” Stewart said.

Funerals have since returned to full capacity, but protocols, like mask wearing, remain for funeral staff.

“We actually wear them regardless of whether they request it or not. We have people come in and say is masks required and I said, ‘no, it’s requested, but it’s up to you if you want to wear one,’” Stewart said.

According to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services, COVID-19 deaths climbed sharply in August after several months of a decreasing daily number of deaths. The deadliest day of the pandemic in Texas came on January 13 with 387 deaths. Stewart says the majority of the deaths they see this time around were not vaccinated.

“It is frustrating because it’s such an easy fix. It can be prevented now,” Stewart said.

According to the KLTV 7 COVID-19 tracker, more than 2,600 East Texans have died of the virus.

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