Coronavirus illness among staff closes funeral home

This was bound to happen so we probably should not be surprised by this headline.  However, it still seemed surreal to me when I read in this article from the Arizona Daily Star that a Tucson, Arizona, funeral home had been closed due to “a number of staff” members falling ill and being required to self-quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world.

The article tells of the Adair Funeral Home on North Dodge Boulevard in Tucson that had been closed and now has been “professional cleaned, disinfected and sterilized”.  Fortunately, while closed and cleaned client families were able to access the company’s second location, the Avalon Chapel, in Tucson so as not to cause a disruption of business or care to Tucson families in need.

According to the article, “the incident highlights lingering questions about how the virus is transmitted, and it underscores the essential work still being done by so-called last responders in the community’s morgues and mortuaries.”  Judith Stapley, the executive director of the Arizona State Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers is quoted, “They really are heroes, but they don’t get the recognition they deserve, because it’s death and nobody wants to talk about that”.

Also, Dr. Greg Hess, chief medical examiner for the county is quoted, “Are we hearing that someone has contracted COVID from a dead body?  We’re not.  It’s possible, but honestly there is a much greater risk of contracting it from somewhere else”

And, the good news is that Adair Funeral Homes reported on Friday “that all staff members have recovered from the coronavirus” and “as their quarantine periods end, they are returning to work to assist Tucson-area families in need”.

Adair Funeral Homes are owned by Orlando, Florida, based Foundation Partners Group.  The article states that Foundation Partners Groups owns six facilities in the Tucson area.

Funeral Director Daily take:  I was part of a task force in Minnesota back in about 2007 to 2009 that was formed to anticipate the potential H1N1 virus.  One of the things that I remember being told was that it was imperative that the essential workers like funeral home employees have to take care of themselves because if they are out with the illness, it would create a problem.  I’d never thought of that and it really opened my eyes to the “fragility” of a pandemic care chain.

That is not to blame anybody or say that some were not serious about their own care, it is just a fact that must be reckoned with.  And, we have had articles in Funeral Director Daily recently that have told how some funeral homes are dealing with keeping their employees, and their employee families, isolated.  Some funeral homes have rented extended stay hotel rooms for their employees and we know of some staying at deserted college dorms.  We’ve also heard of some funeral homes with multiple locations assigning individual staff and employees to one location only so that the potential for spread is limited.  Quite frankly, I’ve been amazed at some of the ingenuity among funeral homes that I have heard about.

This is just a reminder to try to do what you can in staying safe so that you can serve the public when they need us.

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