Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Joe Neufeld never had more than five bodies in his Elmhurst, Queens, funeral home at one time. On Wednesday there were 30 and last week there were 80.
Because families can't have services any more, most are settling for cremation. But there are only four crematoriums in the city and they are backed up for weeks or even months -- leaving families and funeral homes with few options.
That's where Dr. David Penepent comes in. Penepent is a mortuary science professor from SUNY Canton who has built a team he calls "Hands with a Heart" to transport bodies from funeral homes in New York City to crematoriums in Vermont and Pennsylvania, where fewer people are dying from the virus.
Penepent said even with the wrenching number of dead, funeral directors don't have the luxury of becoming numb to the pain of each family they serve.
A cremation takes about three hours and even the crematoriums the bodies are being brought to have a backlog -- but just not as long as in the city.
MORE CORONAVIRUS COVID-19 COVERAGE
Grieving the lost: Tri-State residents who have died
New York state
Where are the testing centers
See how our communities are making a difference
Free educational resources for parents and children
How you can help victims of coronavirus
Share your coronavirus story with Eyewitness News
Stimulus check scams and other coronavirus hoaxes
Coronavirus prevention: how clean are your hands?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on coronavirus
Total count of NYC COVID-19 cases based on patient address