New Details: No room to refrigerate deceased in Warren County

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – From September 1st to 13th, J.C. Kirby & Sons Funeral Chapels & Crematory in Bowling Green said that they have seen 18 deaths due to COVID-19. According to them, each one of those people were unvaccinated. The funeral home said from the start of the month until now, those cases make up 50% of their deceased.

Kevin Kirby, the Warren County coroner and owner of J.C. Kirby & Sons Funeral Chapels & Crematory said this is a county-wide issue. 

“Our local hospitals, with the surge that we’ve had with the COVID, they don’t have room for refrigeration. The local funeral homes who have refrigeration, theirs are full also,” said Kirby.

Warren County Fiscal Court decided Friday they would put out bids for a portable trailer to temporarily store deceased bodies in cases like COVID upticks or future disasters.  According to Kirby, Warren County Fiscal Court’s new mobile type trailer will be able to hold about 16 bodies.

J.C. Kirby & Sons Funeral Chapels & Crematory Manager Eric Thomason said the stats are saddening.

“Probably half of the families we are serving right now are COVID deaths. Every single death we’ve seen, the person is unvaccinated. Unvaccinated people are dying. Vaccinated people are not. It’s as simple as that,” said Thomason.

Kirby said their funeral home only has one refrigeration unit that accommodates 15 people. To combat this room shortage, along with the new county mobile unit, their own funeral home is currently expanding its refrigeration unit, so it will eventually hold 30 bodies.

Bowling Green’s Med Center Health and Greenview Regional Hospital did not comment on this issue, but according to Kirby, the two hospitals and his funeral home are working together right now, as they have in other times of crisis, to make sure that ample room is available for refrigeration. 

Butler County coroner Marty Jones said that from the first wave of COVID-19 until this year’s spike around summertime, the demographic of people in their county contracting COVID has changed.

“We have seen an uptick in COVID-19 deaths,” noted Jones. “The first go around on the COVID, the majority of people that we had at that time was over 70, and this go around the majority of ours has been under 70.”

Jones said many people in towns without hospitals go to places like Bowling Green.

“[Bowling Green is] sort of the central hub, so they’re going to get the majority of our residents and other residents from areas that do not have a hospital. So, we haven’t experienced any refrigeration issues here in Morgantown for Butler County at this point,” said Jones.

Thomason also said that death rates are much higher in general due to delayed care.

“Rates are much higher than typical, because we have a lot of people who can’t seek surgeries they need. They can’t get into doctors they need. They can’t find hospital beds for other treatments, because COVID is taking up all of those resources.”

Kirby said he expects the county’s mobile refrigeration unit to arrive sometime this week.