Funeral homes adjust to COVID-19

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Funeral services are painful ordeals for anyone who has lost a loved one. They are especially hard in the current era of COVID-19 restrictions.

Under the stay-at-home regulations announced by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and State Health Officer Scott Harris in late March, funeral homes are remaining open as essential businesses, but they are subject to the crowd size and social distancing recommendations that are widely being observed across the U.S.

What that means is that funeral services during the current crisis are private affairs with no more than 10 people present and everyone being six feet apart.

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It’s a long-held tradition in our culture for funerals to be an emotionally healing experience for those who have lost a loved one. Having long-time friends and family members there to console the family, to shake their hand and embrace them means a lot to those who are dealing with loss.

That can’t happen in this current period, but a family’s grief is still there.

“We are staying within the guidelines,” Wesley Anderson of Johnson Brown-Service Funeral Home in Valley told The Valley Times-News on Monday. “We are adhering to what the state of Alabama has directed and what the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends. We have had 10 people or less at our visitations and our funerals, and we try to keep everyone six feet apart. To do this, we have been having private services.”

Jack Whitworth of Bluffton Funeral Services, Lanett, said that families have been understanding and cooperative in this.

“We are being very careful in what we do, and everyone wants to be safe. We haven’t had any issues in complying with the public health recommendations,” he said. “We have been doing graveside services, limiting it to 10 people including us. It’s okay to have more than that if they stay in their cars. We ask that the cars stay six feet apart.”

Whitworth said that memorial services can be held once the current crisis is over.