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Funeral homes adapt in the age of COVID-19

The spread of COVID-19 continues to have impacts in ways few could have imagined a few weeks ago. One of the areas it is being felt is in the way that funeral homes across the country are holding their services.

Because of social distancing guidelines, Andrews Funeral Home in Gloucester has decided to begin offering online services for families who request them.

Another option is for a family to hold a private graveside service with no more than 10 people and schedule a memorial service for a later date.

Andrews Funeral Home is working towards “keeping things as safe as we can,” said Jerry Andrews, owner and manager of Andrews Funeral Home.

The funeral home has taken extra precautions to protect staff and clients. They have stationed hand sanitizers at its doors and conduct most business over the phone. When people do come in, they only admit a couple people at a time.

Howard Funeral Home in Gloucester is offering crematory services now and memorial services to be held at a later date.J.K. Redmond Funeral Home, Shacklefords, is limiting service options as well. The home is encouraging limiting the amount of people at viewing and graveside services. At this time the home is looking into livestreaming services, although no specific plans have been made.

Faulkner Funeral Homes and Cremation Services in Mathews has updated its service options until the COVID-19 crisis is over. According to Gregg Faulkner Sr., president and general manager of Faulkner Funeral Homes, there are two current options for services at its Mathews, Saluda and Tappahannock locations.

The first option is to have a private family Celebration of Life service at the funeral home, church, and/or graveside now, with no more than 10 people present. Then they will either record the service and place a link on their website for extended family and friends or they will coordinate a public service at a later date.

The second option available is to have no services now. Then, at a future date, Faulkner Funeral Homes will coordinate a Celebration of Life service at the funeral home or church.

“While these choices are certainly not what people are accustomed to, we will do everything we can to work with the family to come up with a solution they will be pleased with,” said Faulkner.

Faulkner Funeral Homes has increased cleaning and disinfecting measures, having appropriate signage from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted in their facilities to provide direction and raise awareness and having hand sanitizer available in all their locations and vehicles.

Hogg Funeral Home at Hayes has also begun offering a new service due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The funeral home is providing a service called “Hugs from Home,” that will give those not attending the chance to be able to share a token of love and support.

Individuals can go to the Hogg Funeral Home website, click the link on its homepage and leave a message of support that will be handwritten and attached to a white balloon. These balloons will fill the Hogg Funeral Home chapel as “hugs” for the families and the families will then be able to read these messages.

A release from Hogg Funeral Home stated that “Hogg Funeral Home’s priority is the safety, well-being and health of the families we serve, the community we live in, first responders and health care workers. We are monitoring the COVID-19 situation and taking proactive measures to prevent the spread of any illness.”
It stated that “Hogg is strictly following social distancing requirements for all events as recommended by the State of Virginia Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Selected Independent Funeral Homes, National Funeral Directors Association and Order of the Golden Rule.”

The National Funeral Directors Association states that funeral directors can offer different options for families in areas that limit the size of public gatherings, including:

—Have a private viewing for only immediate family and/or close friends;

—Delay the funeral to hold it at a later date;

—Have a private viewing for only immediate family and/or close friends and have a large memorial service for all family and friends at a later date, or

—Discuss options for webcasting the funeral so others can view at home.

The NFDA also states that some funeral homes are taking additional measures such as: Scaling back direct contact with families and guests (e.g., handshakes, hugs, etc.); Keeping the front door open (weather permitting) or ensuring a staff person is always available to open a door during visitations and services to prevent people from touching the door knob, and Offering free or reduced-cost webcasting.

The National Concrete Burial Vault Association recommends that funeral homes immediately discontinue the use of lap blankets, water cooler service, chairs and chair covers, tent sidewalls and any other similar items, due to inability to easily disinfect and to enable social distancing.