COVID-19’s Last Responders “Can’t Work From Home”

Carl Sherman
Carl Sherman Photo by Carl Sherman staff

Funeral Homes Are Front & Center During a Pandemic

LANCASTER – When thinking about COVID-19 these days often we forget the last responders.

Who would that be?

Those working at the funeral homes helping families and friends say goodbye to the victims of this grueling pandemic.

Last week, State Representative (District 109) Carl Sherman hosted a virtual town hall meeting with key funeral homeowners and representatives to discuss what hopefully most of the public will not have to experience.

“My desire was that one would walk away from this meeting with an increased awareness regarding the last responders’ responses to COVID-19,” Rep. Sherman said of his decision to hold the virtual Town Hall meeting.

Topics during the meeting included increased business, additional steps taken during the pandemic for last responders and even how staff is affected at funeral homes.

The current and future needs by last responders due to the high rate of pandemic deaths were also touched on in the Town Hall meeting.

With the current onslaught of high caseloads due to the increasing number of COVID-19 deaths, the Town Hall meeting gave the last responders an opportunity to voice their concerns, encourage individuals to follow CDC guidelines to eradicate this virus and to give people a view into “a day in the life of” a last responder.

As part of the meeting Golden Gate Funeral Home, Laure Land Funeral Home, Sacred Funeral Home, and International Funeral Home directors spoke about what they have been doing to make sure the chapels and the viewing rooms are safe.

“This is not a stranger danger disease,” one Funeral Home Director said.

In that case, the part of funerals that many people have experienced is hugging and consoling. With COVID-19 most family are immediate at the funeral service and are still able to hug, but in some cases, it is just not safe anymore.

Rising deaths seen at funeral homes this year </uh2

Funeral numbers this year according to the directors have increased.

One Funeral Home said it had to purchase three additional refrigerator units.

A number that was mentioned by one home was last year at end of July there were 201 funerals as opposed to this year at the same time there being 251.

The Laurel Land representative agreed the death rate has increased this year, however, she added “We can’t say these increases are all COVID-19 related.”

Golden Gate Funeral Home is also having trouble buying PPE, they are having to buy the equipment off the street where the price is higher.

“We have to protect the employees at a higher price,” Golden Gate’s Director said.

Staff Are Also At Risk

One strong reminder was that last responders cannot work from home.

And COVID-19 is always on their minds because the hospitals do not tell the funeral home if the death was COVID-19 related.

All the funeral home representatives agreed they had to become very innovative very quickly.

And they did, so families and friends are able to say goodbye to their loved ones properly.

“While the state is reopening in stages, that does not undermine the fact that the pandemic is still of dire concern in not only Texas, but around the country and the world,” Rep. Sherman concluded.