SAN LORENZO (KPIX 5) — Some mortuary owners in the East Bay are facing a grim reality of the coronavirus as the death toll climbs and they struggle to find space to accommodate families.

In Alameda and Contra Costa counties, just over 1,000 total deaths from COVID-19 were confirmed as of Tuesday.

Mortuaries throughout the Bay Area tell KPIX 5 they are swamped as the number of bodies continues to mount. Many say they don’t want to turn away families, but they are having to make more space available daily if not hourly.

“It is mind blowing,” said Lisa Bradshaw, owner of Grissom’s Chapel and Mortuary in San Lorenzo. “Since you’ve been here, we’ve had four people join us. They have passed away. And that’s been within an hour.”

Bradshaw says 90 percent of the people arriving have been COVID-related deaths.

“It’s like wildfire. It starts with one person and the next day there is 40 people that have tested positive and they are unable to recover,” said Bradshaw.

The mortuary’s casket sales room has been transformed into a prep room for those who have passed away. In order to keep up with the flood of arriving decedents, Bradshaw is renting a refrigerated truck parked alongside her building.

“And now it’s come to, ‘Can you come now? Because there’s no room in the morgue,'” said Sharon Mace, owner and funeral director at A Special Touch Funeral and Cremation Service in Dublin. “We had to go and get her immediately in her room at the hospital, because there was absolutely no room in the morgue to put anyone else in.”

Bradshaw says backlog is happening at other agencies, not just at bay Area morgues and mortuaries.

“I want my families to feel like they’re person is the only person we are taking care of. And as much as I would like to be able to make them first at all times, I don’t have the ability when there’s no doctor, there’s no coroner, no health department fast enough to get the permit signed.”

The operators KPIX spoke with said they believe the current surge is from Thanksgiving and that they may not have felt the impact of the Christmas and New Year’s surge yet. They are bracing for that surge of deaths to happen in the next two weeks.

Juliette Goodrich