Coronavirus News: New York professor helps transport bodies from overwhelmed funeral homes to crematoriums out of state

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The number of deaths in New York is staggering and funeral homes are overwhelmed - so one man is coming to NYC's rescue from Upstate.

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.

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