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Border & Immigration

Faith And Compassion Drive McAllen Man Who Escorts The Dead



Juan Lopez wears a hazmat suit, face respirator and gloves to work when picking up the body of someone who died because of COVID-19, but he says God is his best protection from contracting the virus.

 
 Juan Lopez wears a hazmat suit, face respirator and gloves to work when picking up the body of someone who died because of COVID-19, but he says God is his best protection from contracting the virus.

This story comes from NPR’s Next Generation Radio project.

Along with a full-body hazmat suit and face respirator, Juan Lopez wears at least six pairs of gloves to work – all at once.

He takes a pair off every time he touches the dead body he’s responsible for moving.

The McAllen man has been a human remains transporter in the Rio Grande Valley for two decades, moving corpses from crime scenes, homes and hospitals to funeral homes and morgues. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the region last spring, he has never had to pick up so many bodies.

Before the pandemic, Lopez would move about 15 corpses a week through his company, Elite Transportation & Clean-up Service. But during the region’s summer surge, he was picking up as many as 50 bodies a day. Lopez’s phone rings nearly every 20 minutes.

“I’m tired that every time I get a call, every time I have to go to a hospital, we already know it was for COVID,” the 45-year-old says. “Not for natural causes, not for accident, not for suicidal, it was COVID, COVID, COVID.”

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