TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - More than 4,000 Latinos in Arizona have died from COVID-19 . In Pima County, the Hispanic and Latino population makes up 38% of positive cases.
A Tucson funeral home owner is seeing it firsthand, and has seen the number of repatriation services triple in the last two months. Mortician Azhar Dabdoub transports those who die in Arizona back to their home country, whether it’s Central America or Mexico.
“It mostly because they have friends and family back home that can’t cross at this time and because that’s where they were from,” Dabdoub said.
Right now, about 80% of repatriation services at Dabdoub’s funeral home are related to COVID.
“If they didn’t pass away from COVID, then they have their pre-existing conditions that had complications after COVID and kept them in the ICU longer, and that’s when the death occurs,” he added.
We’re told it could take up to a month before family members across the border can lay their loved ones to rest- a delay Dabdoub says starts in the ICU.
“There may have been 4 to 5 physicians at the care of the patient at that time, but to guess who it is- that’s a problem all funeral homes are having. That’s why there’s a backlog with death certificates in the system,” said Dabdoub.
According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, just under 4,500 Latino and Hispanics have died across the state. An alarming rate Dabdoub knows all about, as his transports across the border have more than doubled.
“Now we’re crossing about three to four times a week to transfer cases at the border, or into Mexico.”
Dabdoub said his funeral home has about two dozen repatriation transfers pending- a number that prior to COVID was only five a month.