SOUTHAVEN, Miss. (WMC) - For many families, Thanksgiving will look and feel a lot different this year.
More than 250,000 seats around dinner tables will sit empty.
That’s how many Americans have died from COVID-19.
A Southaven pastor says funerals at his church are up 50%, in large part because of the pandemic. It’s been a year of heartbreak for many families because of COVID-19.
Pastor Bartholomew Orr of Brown Missionary Baptist Church in Southaven has seen that heartbreak time again.
“I’m preaching multiple funerals most weekends,” said Orr. “We’ve gone above and beyond.”
Because of its location, people in both Mississippi and Tennessee attend Pastor Orr’s church. People on both sides of the state line have lost loved ones from COVID-19.
The Mississippi State Health Department says as of Wednesday 99 people have died from COVID-19 in DeSoto County.
The Shelby County Health Department says 645 people have died in Shelby County from COVID-19.
To be clear, the pastor says not all of the nearly 80 funerals that have been held at his church are related to COVID-19. Still, he says many of them are.
“We’re seeing not just old, but young as well, so it is something that we really need to take serious,” said Orr.
That’s why his church handed out Thanksgiving food to more than 500 families on Wednesday.
“I saw a lot of elderly, so if we can keep them out of the grocery stores, especially those that are the most vulnerable, this is a win-win for us,” said Orr.
With COVID-19 cases surging, health leaders in both Mississippi and Tennessee are urging people to practice social distancing this Thanksgiving.
Pastor Orr is optimistic.
“I think people are seeing now that it is real. It is affecting everyone, and if we’re going to get back to whatever sense of normalcy, it is going to take us doing our part, each person doing their part to help bring those numbers down,” he said.
Orr says in addition to COVID-19, the rise in violent crime this year, like the record homicides in Memphis, has also contributed to the increase in funerals at his church.