Unlike most everything else in society, the death of a loved one isn’t a postponable event, even in a time of pandemic and enhanced social distancing, so funeral homes are having to look at ways to keep the loved ones of the recently departed safe and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Funeral homes are limiting the number of people who can attend services and turning to online streaming for people outside immediate family.
“For us it’s new. Some families would record on their own before, and it would be on personal Facebook pages,” said Colby Davis, a funeral director with Cason-Monk-Metcalf Funeral Directors. “Right now we’re able to offer through the Cason-Monk-Metcalf Facebook page streaming services with the family’s permission.”
Public visitations in a traditional format have also come to a halt.
“Scheduling of a modified visitation for family members will be scheduled when there is not another family present in the funeral home; and when a time period is available by funeral home staff prior to 6 pm; and be set for a period of one hour. The maximum number of family present at any one time is 10 individuals,” Laird Funeral Home owner Danny G. Mounger wrote on the funeral home’s website.
Burial attendance is also being restricted, though funeral homes are offering memorial services once the pandemic ends.
“Everybody that we’ve spoken to so far is totally understanding,” Davis said.
When COVID-19 first began spreading, some online reports urged immediate cremations.
“That’s not true. We’re still able to have people honor their loved one with a service. It’s just different than it was two months ago,” Davis said.
Mounger offered similar advice to his customers.
“There is no evidence that a deceased person is a carrier of the virus since airborne droplets would not be present after death occurs,” he wrote.
Funerals, for now, must be held, inside a funeral home. Some faiths, like the Roman Catholic Church, typically require funerals to be held in a church building.
However, the Diocese of Tyler has given priests the authority to use their discretion.
“No other locations will be offered since our staff can not guarantee safety in a facility we do not control, and most churches have closed their doors during this time,” Mounger said.
Deaths during the pandemic also pose a unique risks to Catholic and Episcopal priests who visit the seriously ill and dying to administer last rites. Clergy visiting patients are advised to follow recommended protocols for hand washing and wear medical masks when visiting the gravely ill.