Funeral homes adjusting, creating new offerings in times of coronavirus

Published 1:40 pm Monday, March 30, 2020

Funeral services are going to have to be a little bit different, at least for now.

With Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill abiding with Centers for Disease Control and governmental regulations prohibiting public gatherings of 10 or more people, funeral homes have had to make a major shift to their business model. It’s not an industry that will see economic ebbs and flows like many others struggling in these times, but it is one that will have to make some adjustments.

“We don’t see it as a choice. To be a responsible member of the community, we need to follow the mayor’s guidelines,” Beth Rossen, of Waller Funeral Home, said. “But at the same time, we have to work with each family individually to meet their specific needs. We’re just trying to do our part here to stop the spread. But we have to keep in mind these families’ personal, specific needs when they have a death.”

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As long as these public gathering guidelines are in place, Waller will be offering virtual live streaming of funeral services for the public. They are also offering to do funeral arrangements over the phone or virtually via video chat.

People are still welcome in their facilities, but no more than 10 at a time.

“We’re not requiring families to do it virtually, but if that’s their preference, if they prefer not to leave their home to make funeral arrangements, we’ll do it over the phone or via the internet for certain merchandise selections,” Rossen said.

Serenity-Martin Funeral Home will be taking a similar approach. For now, all services will be held in small groups at the graveside, family members only. They are also allowing private viewings for only immediate family members – if there is more than 10 people, only 10 total people will be allowed in the building at a time, and none of these viewings will be open to the public.

They are also going to be offering live streaming of services via Facebook or other social media platforms.

There have been no coronavirus-related deaths in Lafayette County, but the facilities are prepared in the even that one occurs. Guidelines have been put in place from the National Funeral Directors Association, through the CDC, to follow if they were to get a coronavirus case.

“Additional measures, during the embalming process, that we have to take that are preventative measures to minimize the virus,” said George Spears of Serenity-Martin. “It’s a few different disinfectants and things of that nature. And these measures come from the CDC and are on top of the normal preventative measures that we’ve always taken and were doing anyways.”

Spears added that it’s all been a learning curve for him and other colleagues of his who run funeral homes. Families he’s spoken to have been understanding of the process, he said.

But for now, these funeral homes aren’t going anywhere. They have new governmental rules to abide by, as do many businesses in these times, but there is no getting rid of their services, even in times of national crisis.

“We’re prepared in case anything happens. We just want to reassure the community that we’re here, we’re available and we’re prepared to handle a death in a way that is comfortable to the family,” Rossen said. “We’re going to continue performing funeral services in a manner the family is comfortable with, but at the same time acting as a responsible member of the community.”