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Several Florida funeral homes and churches pledge “no indoor funerals”

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We recently learned, in this video story and print article from News 6 Orlando, that a group of about 30 churches and six funeral homes in Marion County, Florida, have decided not to hold indoor services for the remainder of 2021.  According to the article, “After hearing that many funeral homes . . . .  are overwhelmed with funerals related to COVID deaths, local pastors held a conference call with funeral home directors and medical professionals.”

That call led the group to call for a moratorium on indoor funerals until January 1, 2022, or until the positivity rate for Covid-19 cases drops significantly in Marion County.  Here’s what Rev. Bishop Stockton III said in the article, “It really was the fact that we were seeing and hearing of our funeral directors and their teams contracting COVID. We started seeing and hearing more pastors contracting the virus, so we started asking the question, where are we seeing and why we are seeing numbers go up? We followed the trail back to funerals.”

Felix Snow was one of the funeral directors interviewed in the story.  He states that there has been minimal pushback from families planning funeral services.  According to the article, “Snow said he doesn’t mind if the families decide to go somewhere else to do business because of the indoor funeral moratorium.”  He continued by saying this, “As a licensed funeral director, my concern is for the safety of the community. It’s not about money with me. Losing business is a sacrifice I’m willing to make.”

Funeral Director Daily take:  On a personal level, as a funeral director I gave my all to families for 33 years.  I understand public safety but in the case of funerals no one is making the public attend these services.  And, I think we have learned in the past 18 months that we can do services that mitigate most concerns.

On the other hand, I respect each person with the decisions that they make in their own unique environment.  I don’t live in Florida where there is probably the possibility of doing all of these services out of doors.  The weather is certainly different than winter in Minnesota.

When I first started in the funeral business I was fortunate to work with an “old-timer” who had started in 1929.  He was in his 51st year of employment with our family funeral home when I started.  He related to me many of the difficulties during his 51 years including the polio epidemic in Minnesota during the late 1940’s.  He told me of caring for the dead and then burning all of his clothes before going home to his family so as to be sure not to carry the disease there.

There was no doubt that caring for the deceased was his highest priority.  And, he passed that on to me.

I remember the 1980’s when I was confronted with the removal of a Creutzfeld-Jacob disease and my first AIDS case, before science had figured out its transmission.  I can remember embalming a case of suspected viral meningitis where my local medical examiner suggested that I take an anti-viral drug just as a precaution against contracting the disease.  In that case I distinctly remember coming home and not wanting to hug my small children in a precautionary move.  It actually made me wonder why I was doing what I was doing if it endangered my family.

I understand that this is not an easy decision for these Florida funeral homes.  Safety for our community is a concern and safety to funeral home employees should be a concern.  It is my opinion that each of us can understand the issues we are dealing with and make our unique decisions on our operations and how to safely proceed.  And, understanding and empathy for each of our colleagues should be respected.

Related-– In researching this article, here’s an article I came upon entitled, “Epidemics through the ages” from a Minnesota newspaper.

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