Funeral industry facing new set of challenges with COVID-19

Coronavirus

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — COVID-19 is forcing funeral and cremation services to face new challenges.

Gale Robinson owns Phillips-Robinson Funeral Home in East Nashville.

“Not in my lifetime. We’ve never experienced anything such as this,” said Robinson. “Two things—when you’re dealing with human remains, we’re required by OSHA and the federal government to use universal precautions.”

Among them, equipment used in the prep room and crematory.

“Personal protection equipment includes gowns, gloves, stockings over your shoes, over your head, face mask, also a breathing mask,” said Robinson.

The funeral home is even now embalming with a five-percent stronger fluid to hopefully kill any viruses.

Robinson said the changes also impact visitation.

The CDC recommends limiting gatherings to 50 people or less for at least eight weeks.

The White House on Tuesday brought that number down to 10 people.

“We are most definitely advising our families about the necessity of social distancing and trying to limit the number of people that come into the facility,” said Robinson.

Robinson said most funeral directors are willing to work with families.

“If they insist on a public visitation, I’m going to insist that they don’t bring food in at this time and that minimizes a lot of the personal contact,” he said.

To do so, funeral directors are recommending live streaming ceremonies, even waiting it out.

“When we get towards the end of this, they can have a gathering or celebration of life service at a later date,” said Robinson.

Randy Nash, President of the Tennessee Funeral Directors Association, said if at some point Tennessee reports it’s first Covid-19 death, the family of the deceased will face difficult decisions.

“The number of unknowns are so great that we have to just treat each family individually,” said Nash. “If they have been in contact with their loved one who died from it, they are going to be quarantined themselves so those are the things that factor in, too.”

According to the CDC, COVID-19 deaths can be buried or cremated safely.

But the question that remains is the window of possible transmission even after someone dies from the virus.

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

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COVID-19 in Tennessee

(This reflects what the TDH is reporting each day at 2 p.m. CST )

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