The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, March 24, 2020 1:00 am

Funeral homes try adapting to mandate


Those who conduct local funerals are adjusting to the COVID-19 directives of recent days.

Funeral homes are still ready and able to accept the dead and prepare them for cremation or burial, whether they've died from the virus or other causes, said Jessica Coleman, market director for Klaehn, Fahl & Melton, Fort Wayne. 

Gov. Eric Holcomb's stay-at-home order delivered at noon Monday means changes in how to provide funeral services, however.

“We were following state guidelines of 50 or less (at gatherings),” Coleman said. “Now the governor's order could change that.”

The order lists funeral-related services – funeral, mortuary, cremation, burial and cemetery – as essential. But gathering limits of 10 people still apply.

Holcomb has canceled church gatherings through April 6. The Allen County Department of Health on Saturday canceled church gatherings through April 11, whether in a church building or elsewhere, although some are contesting the move. Churches are urged to use virtual means for ministry in both cases. 

“We are trying to get clarification” on funerals in churches, Megan Hubartt, spokeswoman for the county health department, said Monday afternoon in an email.

Andy Clayton, executive director of the Indiana Funeral Directors Association, said gatherings of 10 or more people are not allowed.

“That's in a church, a funeral home, a cemetery or anywhere else,” he said.

Some funeral homes were arranging virtual funerals Monday using streaming tools including Zoom and Facebook Live. Others recommended going ahead with burial or cremation but postponing the service.

Daniel Blevins, owner of Yeager Funeral Home and founder and director of Legacy Cremation & Remembrance Center, said families should elect to hold private services.

“If a family still wishes to hold public services, we will certainly honor their decisions and make every effort to limit the number of individuals gathered at any one time. We will, as we always have, follow the family's wishes,” Blevins said in an email.

Yeager and Legacy also will livestream and videotape services and host gatherings later at no extra charge, Blevins said.

Christopher James, spokesman for the parent company of D.O. McComb, said in a statement that technological solutions are being explored. Situations are being handled case-by-case, the statement said.

“We are cooperating with all local, state and federal authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We strive to follow internal health, safety and environmental procedures and adhere to all industry regulations to ensure measures are in place to protect decedents, their families, our employees and the community.”

Funeral directors today try to stress celebrating a person's life and ease grieving, Coleman said.

“This is so tough for us,” she said.

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