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Funeral homes prepare for COVID cases

Service size reduced. Precautions increased.
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Posted at 6:28 PM, Apr 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-02 21:28:28-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - With death rates up, it’s inevitable the coronavirus crisis will reach the funeral homes. KGUN9 On Your Side’s Craig Smith talked to one well known mortuary on how it’s preparing and how the virus has affected even funerals where COVID was not the cause of death.

Coronavirus is a grim reality that gets grimmer every day. As it does, it challenges the institutions we depend on when times get tough---and that includes funeral homes.

“We’ve had one patient with COVID,” says Paul Neville, Funeral Director at Brings Broadway Chapel. “They (the family) didn't have a chance to see her at the hospital before she passed so we availed them an opportunity up to 30 minutes here in our funeral home. They were required by us to put on full protective gear.”

Workers at Brings Broadway Chapel have always used protective gear working with remains. Now it’s offered to families even if they have no known connection to the Coronavirus. Neville says he’s had trouble re-ordering new stocks of gear.

A page on the Bring's website outlines the funeral home's coronavirus safeguards.

The chapel at Brings has 130 seats packed close together---normal for an intimate memorial service in normal times. Now ten people carefully spaced, is the limit. That applies to gravesite services too.

The funeral home can stream services on the internet so people who can’t attend can still witness the ceremony.

Neville says some families are waiting until the virus subsides and they can have a service with the warmth of plenty of friends and family. The decision to postpone makes cremation more common, and raises the chance space could become short to store uncremated remains. Neville says his facility has good capacity.

“We have a very large, up to date, cooler and storage room, but it could get that point. Absolutely, I mean we're right at the beginning stages of this so if you consider all of April, this could go into May. We just don't know.”

Paul Neville says for families, coronavirus, and the changes it has caused just make coping with a death even more surreal--and funeral homes are doing their best to adjust and try to help.