Local Funeral Homes Operate Under New Guidelines to Prevent Spread of COVID-19

Funeral homes are having to limit attendance at funerals and provide alternative options in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Matthews Funeral Home & Cremation Service in Edmond currently has to limit services to no more than 10 people since a state order first took effect on March 24 to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The locally owned funeral home is now presenting families with the option to live stream the service for those unable to attend.

“Now we’re recording and streaming every single funeral service, so people can watch it online,” said Brandon Newman, funeral director at Matthews Funeral Home.

Families also have the option to arrange funeral services for a later date, although it is not certain when things will return back to normal.

“We probably have 10 or 12 already that are scheduled for a later date,” Newman said. “But [we are] still just not sure when we are going to be able to do it.”

Richard Osborn, funeral director at Smith & Kernke Funeral Homes & Crematory in Oklahoma City, said despite this uncertainty, many people are choosing the option to postpone memorial services.

“Unfortunately, a lot of people are putting them off for a later date,” Osborn said. “We have had a couple of services and, of course, we just keep it under 10 people.”

The new option to record and live stream chapel services will likely continue to be offered to families as an alternative from now on, according to Osborn.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has suggested such alternatives to the National Funeral Directors Association via a webinar to promote social distancing to limit crowds.

“For example, if live streaming and limiting in-person attendance to immediate family is possible, we encourage that,” said David Berendes, an environmental epidemiologist with the CDC, during the webinar. “Additionally, promoting social distancing at the event regardless of size and promoting hand hygiene as well is important.”

At this time, CDC guidance states, “there is currently no known risk associated with being in the same room at a funeral or visitation service with the body of someone who died of COVID-19.”

However, the CDC also advises that people should not consider touching the body of anyone who died as a result of coronavirus.

As of April 17, 136 Oklahomans have died due to the coronavirus, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

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