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MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. — Former Chicago Cub and Baseball Hall of Famer Andre Dawson moonlights in retirement as a funeral home owner in Florida. In a year and a half, he said COVID-19 has never been this bad.

Andre Dawson turned his Cubs uniform for a dark, well-pressed suit years ago. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, his crew, which includes his family, were keeping up with the demand. But this summer, the tide turned when the Delta variant took its toll on the sunshine state.

“It’s been pretty touch and go, we put in a lot of long hours, lot of late hours,” Dawson said. “The last three weeks, we have had about 25 total new cases and I think we had 40 last year.”

Of those 25 cases, 20 of them were COVID-19-related deaths. Paradise Memorial Funeral Home has yet to turn away any family in mourning, but Dawson worries it could happen.

Dawson said his wife, Vanessa, is showing signs of stress.

“She said to me just last evening, this is the time we are supposed to be enjoying this part of our lives together,” Dawson said. I said yeah, ‘I know, just remember now this is where God has placed us at this time.”

Dawson doesn’t want to burn her or his funeral director out. He said funeral homes are swamped, crematoriums are backed up and even locating a casket can prove challenging.

But like a Hall of Famer, Andre Dawson is staying focused on working hard through it all. His team in Miami is reminding him about the importance of the work they do for a community they care about.

“When the telephone rings, we should continue to smile because it’s still another opportunity for us to do a service in the community,” Dawson said.

He’s been conducting six funerals every Saturday for the past three weeks. Dawson’s message to anyone who will listen is simple.

“Please, please do get vaccinated,” Dawson said. “Because this thing is real.”