NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — We’ve heard about the struggles of healthcare workers stretched thin caring for patients during the pandemic. But, what happens after a person dies from COVID? The funeral industry has suffered the same hardships.

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Two years into the pandemic and funeral director Eric Wray is counting his blessings. Business, for him, is just about back to normal.

But he tells 10 On Your Side that for some of his colleagues in other states, they’re running short on PPE like masks and gloves.

“A lot of the funeral homes I’ve talked to up north, they’ve seen, they’ve been overrun,” said Eric Wray of E. Vaughn Wray Funeral Establishment.

Wray says he even took on extra work at his Norfolk funeral home to help smaller businesses stay open.

“There was a funeral home out of town where I did their preparation work for. They brought them to me and I sent them back,” Wray stated.

Wray explains how the hours following death, especially from COVID, are critical.

“Viruses need a living host to survive which means once the body has passed on, the body is no longer a host. Usually, between 16 and 18 hours, the virus usually is not able to be transmitted. I exercise universal precautions on everyone. As far as COVID is concerned, we do a little more extra steps as far as bleaching and things of that nature,” Wray said.

From the physical toll of increased precautions and PPE to the mental toll, Wray says during the lockdown he had an influx of deaths, but not just from the virus.

“A lot of suicides and overdoses. We’ve seen a lot of that during the first part of the pandemic—more so than just the virus itself. People are locked down, people are in their homes and they couldn’t get access to maybe their medication. Some couldn’t get access to drugs so we’ve seen a lot of those,” Wray explained.

Wray also told 10 On Your Side he’s had a lot of cremation ceremonies for loved ones who died during the worst part of COVID and weren’t able to gather at the time to grieve.

“I think that everyone should have a proper burial and I don’t think a virus should dictate how a burial happens or does not happen,” Wray concluded.