COVID-19 Precautions Change The Way We Say Goodbye to Deceased Loved Ones

| April 14, 2020

VENANGO CO., Pa., (EYT) – Precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have changed the way we do many things once considered routine; this includes the way we say goodbye to loved ones who pass away during this period.

Instead of announcing visitation times, obituaries now say that public memorial services for family and friends will take place at a later date.

At Reinsel Funeral Home & Crematory in Oil City, Michael Reinsel said social isolation precautions caused one resident to miss his wife’s funeral.

The husband had recently been in the hospital and was under quarantine when he returned to assisted living. If he had left the facility to attend his wife’s funeral, that would have restarted the quarantine.

“So, one of his children stood outside his window and FaceTimed the small service we had at the gravesite,” Reinsel recounted. “The children were the only ones present.”

Reinsel said most of those able to be at the graveside used their phones to include other relatives unable to attend.

The woman’s son, who came from the Pittsburgh area, stayed in his vehicle about 500 yards away because confirmed COVID-19 cases were more prevalent in Pittsburgh.

“In a couple of weeks, we hope to have a mass for the lady at the church,” Reinsel said. “It’s unfortunate, but everybody wants to stay safe.”

For the small gatherings that do take place, they ask people not to shake hands or give hugs, according to Reinsel.

The staff sanitizes the funeral home after each gathering.

The state has asked funeral homes to delay making pre-arrangements for funerals and only make arrangements when there is an imminent need.

All death certificates are currently being done online. With state offices closed, the family members of veterans, who are usually provided free death certificates, are not able to get those.

“You can’t put off death, but you can put off funerals,” said Rick Goble, Funeral Director at Goble Funeral Home in Clarion.

Many funeral homes offer the opportunity to live stream the service online if the family requests it. In most cases, mourners can also leave messages for the family on the funeral home’s website.

“Not only can you leave online condolences, but you can share pictures,” Goble said. “What we’re finding is that we’re going to be using our webpage a lot more than we used to.”

Goble said he is following the governor’s guidelines and limiting funerals to a maximum of ten immediate family members.

Behaviors during funerals can be risky. Many people hug each other during services. And – crying also leads to runny noses, which could lead to possible exposure to COVID-19.

In some cases, families are making arrangements for funerals remotely rather than meeting with funeral home staff in person.

Goble plans to offer memorial DVDs and a memorial service and visitation in the future. They are in the process of adding more video screens to the funeral home, so those services can include pictures and videos since there will be no body present.

“We’re going to try to adapt and still have closure for the families. That’s what the funeral is for,” said Goble.

Goble’s staff is receiving training to keep themselves safe during the pandemic.

According to Goble, before entering an assisted living facility to remove the body of a deceased person, he is now required to answer several questions concerning possible exposure to COVID-19, wear a mask, and have his temperature taken.

The state has provided video training for the embalming process during the pandemic, as well.

“We can go online to see the training video, so that’s what we’ve been doing,” Goble said.

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Category: Community, Local News