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Knoxville funeral home sees unprecedented number of deaths due to COVID-19

One Knoxville funeral home has recorded the most deaths in its 100-year history over the past 12 months as the toll of the pandemic weighs on deathcare workers.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — After more than a year into the pandemic, funeral homes can finally catch their breath. Many said that COVID-19 deaths stretched their resources thin and that they had to adapt to make it through the pandemic.

The Berry Funeral Home served the family of the first person who passed away due to COVID-19 in Knox County.

"Why were we allowed to survive COVID and others just like us were not, doesn't seem fair," said Fred Berry, the president of Berry Funeral Homes.

He said that no matter how anybody looks at it, the past year has been tough.

"With all the restrictions, we were going to have to change our mode of operation," he said. "Not be able to hug them and offer support is very challenging."

He said that the funeral home saw more deaths in the past 12 months than ever before in its 100-year history.

With so much changing in how they operate, the pandemic has also taken an immense toll on the staff for funeral homes.

"The pandemic has definitely taken a toll not only on the community and many families, but it's also taken its toll on the funeral industry," he said. "We worked extremely long hours. I'm so proud of our staff, they're so dedicated."

In the midst of the darkness from COVID-19, he said they learned new ways to handle their unique responsibilities.

"We had to learn to meet with them virtually and thank goodness that technology is where it is today," Berry said.

He said the funeral home also started live-streaming funerals on Facebook, so people could pay respects to loved ones while staying home and practicing social distancing. However, he also said the work has been hard.

"We're trying to cover the increased number of deaths the best we can," he said. "It's been an extremely difficult last 12 months."

They're still committed to doing the best they can for the families that have lost so much, Berry said.