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Juan Lopez prepares to pick up a body from a refrigerated trailer at Doctors Health at Renaissance in Edinburg on July 17, 2…
Coronavirus in Texas

These “last responders” deal with the bodies as coronavirus deaths surge in the Rio Grande Valley

Funeral homes have set up temporary morgues. Crematoriums are running overtime. Families must wait more than a week to bury their loved ones. For body couriers and funeral workers, there’s no letup in sight.

Juan Lopez puts on his personal protective equipment before picking up a body at Doctors Health at Renaissance in Edinburg. …
Juan Lopez wheels a stretcher with a body on it into his Cadillac Escalade. Lopez picks up dead bodies from homes and hospit…

A climbing death toll

Juan Lopez waits to pick up a body from a refrigerated trailer at Doctors Health at Renaissance

The calls are constant

Juan Lopez opens the back door of his Cadillac Escalade ro remove a dead body from the vehicle. Lopez drives to various loca…
Juan Lopez removes a dead body from the back of his vehicle at a funeral home parking lot in McAllen. Lopez picked up the bo…
Juan Lopez works in the early morning of the day to pick-up and transport bodies from hospital morgues to funeral homes. SIn…

“It’s a total nightmare”

“I’ve been in the funeral business going on 40 years, and I’ve never seen anything close to this.”

— Aaron Rivera, funeral director
The temperature gauges on an incinerator at the crematorium at Val Verde Memorial Gardens in Donna. July 17, 2020.
From left, Al Luna and Miguel Guzman move the body of someone that recently died from COVID-19 onto a table. They will short…
A body inside of an incinerator at the crematorium at Val Verde Memorial Gardens. July 17, 2020.
Smoke billows out of a smoke stack at the crematorium at Val Verde Memorial Gardens in Donna. July 17, 2020.
Juan Lopez wheels a stretcher toward a house in McAllen. Lopez is picking up the body of a person that died due to COVID-19.…
Juan Lopez works to remove a dead body from a home in McAllen. The person recently died from COVID-19. July 17, 2020.
Juan Lopez speaks to the family members of a recently deceased relative. The person died of COVID-19 and Lopez reminds them …

It’s more than a job

Two hospital stretchers lay in the back of Juan Lopez’s Cadillac Escalade. Lopez uses the vehicle to pick-up and deliver cad…

The physical and emotional burden

Val Verde Memorial Gardens in Donna. July 17, 2020.

A relentless cycle

Juan Lopez drinks a coffee during a break from his busy morning of picking up dead bodies and delivering them to funeral hom…

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