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Local cemeteries struggle to keep up with burials amid COVID pandemic

"My best friend just passed away last week, actually on Saturday. He's not going to be laid to rest until October 2,” said James Lang.

TAMPA, Fla — Sporting events are back, restaurants are open and in many ways, life feels like it is carrying on as normal. However, COVID-19 is still raging across the Tampa Bay area, and local cemeteries say they can't keep up.

"You already grieving, now you have to wait for your loved one to actually get a final rest,” said Tampa City Council Chairman Orlando Gudes.

Gudes’ family runs a funeral home serving primarily African American neighbors in East Tampa, and he says the funeral home is once again seeing more deaths related to COVID-19.

"Funeral homes are getting overloaded at this particular time,” he said.

So are cemeteries, Gudes added.  

"The cemetery can't build enough vaults to put in the ground or dig enough holes to bury these folks’ loved ones, so now we're having to wait a week later to bury people," he said.

RELATED: Tampa Bay area crematories running out of space as COVID-19 rages

Sometimes the wait is even longer.

"My best friend just passed away last week, actually on Saturday. He's not going to be laid to rest until October 2,” said James Lang.

Lang is also grieving the loss of his mother who passed in August. He came Wednesday to Rest Haven Cemetery on East Hannah for a headstone. It's one of the cemeteries struggling to keep up with burials.

Workers in the main office said they were so behind they had no time to even make anyone available to talk.

"Normally…someone's out the ground for maybe a week at the most. But then when it's like two weeks, three weeks, it just, you know, it prolongs the situation where you can't get over, you know, the hurt of losing a loved one,” said Lang.

RELATED: FEMA planning to cover funeral expenses for those who died with COVID-19

Lang says his loved ones did not have COVID, however the increase in COVID deaths means all grieving families are impacted.

The CDC reports more than 49,000 people have died from COVID across the state.

Those who care for heartbroken families have one plea for those still here.

“We need people to get vaccinated,” Lang said. “Be conscious of your surroundings, and just be careful when you're out in the public.”

Emerald Morrow is a reporter with 10News WTSP. Like her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram and Twitter. You can also email her at emorrow@10tampabay.com.