FARMINGTON, N.M. (KRQE) – He’s the top lawman in an area hit hardest by COVID-19. Following a devastating loss of his own, the San Juan County sheriff also took on another full-time job. Last December, Sheriff Shane Ferrari lost his father, Vince, to COVID.

“I still struggle with it, to be honest with you. I haven’t had time to mourn my father because I’ve been trying to help everybody else through their loss right now,” said Ferrari.

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He is both the sheriff and the new co-owner of Farmington Funeral Home. A role formerly held by his late father, who started Farmington Funeral Home with his wife Helen, eight years ago. “We were in the middle of the pandemic… we were extremely busy. It was difficult. It was difficult on mom,” Ferrari said.

San Juan County has been hit hard by the coronavirus and it’s impacted the sheriff’s office. “It’s just the amount of loss we’ve experienced. You know, per capita, we’re in the national spotlight,” said Ferrari. “We’ve had deputies and some of my civilian staff that have contracted COVID which is problematic.”

During what’s been a busy few years, Ferrari’s connections as sheriff did help the county bring in a mobile morgue last month, as hospitalizations followed by deaths surged once again in the county. “The amount of decedents we were taking in and coming very close to not having the ability to properly house them,” said Ferrari.

Farmington Funeral Home reports at least a 30% increase in decedents during the pandemic. November was their busiest month ever. Ferrari admits balancing being both the sheriff and funeral director is challenging both physically and emotionally. “I’ve seen death for 25 years in law enforcement, tragedy… dealing with critical incidents… and having been in the funeral industry… I see death every day,” Ferrari said.

On especially hard days, he says his dad’s advice to keep going. “My dad taught me long ago, he said, ‘son, take care of business now and panic later’ and that’s exactly what I’ve done,” said Ferrari.

The San Juan Regional Medical Center is still in a crisis level standards of care. They’re currently treating 58 COVID patients.