By James Taylor

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – The deadly results of the pandemic are forcing a local cemetery to expand. With a backlog in funerals and cremations, the need has never been greater.

The expansion is coming amid a double-digit increase in the percentage of people passing away last year.

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“Last year, the death rate increased a little over 20 percent,” said Jerry Del Core, CEO of Catholic Funeral & Cemetery Services

So far, more than 60,000 Californians have died from COVID-19 and the crisis is creating a backlog in memorial services, which, pre-pandemic, used to only take about a week to schedule.

“Right now it’s taking us three to four weeks to schedule a committal after a person has passed,” said Del Core.

The increase comes also just as baby boomers start to pass away.

“As that generation continues to age, the need for funeral service — the need for cemeteries will continue to grow,” said Del Core.

So now, Sacramento’s Catholic diocese is launching a major expansion effort at the Calvary Cemetery in Citrus Heights to accommodate the growing demand.

“This is a state-of-the-art facility,” said Del Core.

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It’s a $10 million building that includes a new chapel reception hall on vacant land near the front entrance.

“We think in the first year we will almost double our capacity,” he said.

They’re also adding new spaces for cremated remains.

“The trends are quite clear. Roughly two out of every three deaths in California is running as a cremation,” he said.

The facility will feature about 1,000 “niches”, clear glass enclosures where an urn can be placed along with personalized mementos of loved ones.

“These glass niches are some of the most expensive property you can be laid to rest in but it gives you the ability to customize,” said Del Core.

It’s a rush to create more space for final resting places as funeral providers try to keep pace with pandemic deaths.

“It’s forced us to rethink our business,” said Del Core.

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The industry is also benefiting from new funding from FEMA, which provides up to $9,000 for COVID-19 related funerals, cremations, and burials.