Increased COVID-19 deaths force change to Tennessee cremation process


OLD HICKORY, Tenn. (WKRN) — More than 8,300 Tennesseans have died from COVID-19.

Gale Robinson owns Phillips-Robinson Funeral Home which has served the community for more than 90 years.

“It is real. [COVID] is real,” said Robinson. “I have never seen anything such as we’ve experienced in 2020.”

We asked how often Robinson received phone calls to receive bodies.

“Every day,” Robinson responded, “And, more than one time a day. It has been very, very, sadly to say very busy.”

It’s a strain felt here at home, and across the county, as deaths caused by the virus overrun morgues, funeral homes, and crematoriums.

“I know for a fact, having made numerous trips to the medical examiner’s office here in Nashville, that they are under tremendous pressure with the number of deaths that have occurred in Davidson County.”

Robinson continues by complimenting county staff for not causing unnecessary delays despite working with limited staff. But, the process hasn’t been as smooth elsewhere. “We did get a notice from the State of Tennessee Department of Vital Records that they had issues across the state.”

The notice reads in part: “We have heard several concerns that the need for a local registrar’s signature on cremation permits is delaying cremations unnecessarily. Going forward, the medical examiner signature will be the only authorization needed on the current form.”

The change also allows for business to continue on weekends, even though the Health Department is closed.

“They have taken out one step that has been very, very helpful,” Robinson explained.

And while the change speeds up the process, it doesn’t lighten the load. Robinson expects to see the same numbers in 2021. “Until we get everyone vaccinated. The virus is not going away.”

And sadly, neither is the grief felt by loved ones around the world.

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.


COVID-19 in Tennessee

(This reflects what the TDH reports each day. )

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