On June 29, a taxi passenger passed away near the Southern Terminal in the municipality of San Marcos. The victim, a soldier traveling to a dialysis treatment in the Military Hospital of San Salvador, suffered a severe coughing fit before succumbing in the backseat. Three hours later, personnel from the Ministry of Health recovered his body under strict covid-19 protocols.
Shortly after identifying the soldier’s body, the Ministry of Health personnel approached his family despite having just tended to a suspected covid-19 victim. After removing the body, they disinfected the entire taxi. As a police car and vehicle from the Ministry of Public Works escorted the taxi and a separate pickup truck carrying the family members, the taxi driver abruptly maneuvered and peeled away onto the highway in the direction of the airport.
On June 28, an 82-year-old woman died of a blocked digestive tract in the Zacamil Hospital in San Salvador. The family managed to recover her body two days later for a burial in the La Bermeja cemetery. “Make sure they put a plaque on it—otherwise, how will I know who I’m mourning,” yelled a woman to the only relative who stood next to the burial, which lasted five minutes. She and the other mourners parked their cars against the wall and peeked over to say goodbye to their matriarch.
“There it is, there it is, somebody record! I can at least see from here,” said a woman standing on the roof of a microbus to see over the wall of La Bermeja as funeral workers lowered her mother’s casket out of a cargo bed. A plainclothes worker pulled the casket out by one end and delivered the casket to the burial workers. At the La Bermeja cemetery, families must pay $238 to bury their loved one in a tomb shared with another body.
From 9 am to 3:30 pm every day, cars from funeral homes line up outside the Rosales Hospital in San Salvador to collect the bodies of confirmed or suspected victims of covid-19. “Once we found 35 victims at the morgue. We sent out 18. The next day I arrived at 6 in the morning and we found another 35 bodies,” recounts a police officer standing guard outside the hospital. Above, a group of funeral workers tries to jump start a car that caused a bottleneck outside the entrance of the morgue.
On Thursday, June 2 at 9 am, an elderly man passed away just moments after getting out of his car near the Women’s Hospital laboratory along Paseo General Escalón in San Salvador. His body lay sprawled out on the concrete until a funeral car came to collect his body at 1:30 pm. After approaching to look, they realized they had found the wrong body and quickly left the scene. An hour later, personnel from the Ministry of Health, police, and another funeral car placed him in a casket and made their way in a caravan toward the cemetery.
A medical response team travels door-to-door through the neighborhoods of Soyapango to detect cases of covid-19, check temperatures, and give instructions on social distancing, the use of masks, and handwashing. This team, which works in one of the most populated municipalities in the department of San Salvador, has reported up to six suspected covid-19 cases every day since it began working on May 23.
A body awaits its burial under covid-19 protocols in the La Bermeja cemetery in San Salvador. The Ministry of Health has reported a total of 600 burials of suspected or confirmed covid-19 victims since June 19. The hospital network has collapsed, according to patients and medical staff, and some cemeteries in the Metropolitan Area of San Salvador, like Ilopango, are full.
Two women hug and cry just beyond the outer wall of the La Bermeja cemetery on Tuesday, June 30. From there they watched as their cancer-stricken mother, 82, was buried. They say she never displayed symptoms of the coronavirus. The women were told they could not attend the burial because covid-19 victims are often mixed in with other bodies due to the overcrowding of hospitals and morgues. After five minutes of watching from over the wall, they left. The burial was over, and officials had others to carry out that afternoon. Their floral offerings were left scattered across the pavement.