Funeral homes among those making changes to comply with coronavirus limits

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 22, 2020

By Liz Moomey

SALISBURY — Even local funeral homes have adjusted their services after Gov. Roy Cooper placed limits on the size of gatherings to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease COVID-19. 

First, the governor banned gatherings on more than 100 people. Then, he tightened that restriction to no more than 50 people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends social distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19. They recommended faith-based organizations to reduce activities and consider offering video and audio of events.

To follow the mandates and recommendations, funeral homes have moved to only private family services and gravesite services. Some are offering a celebration of life after the prohibition is lifted. Noble & Kelsey Funeral Home says it plans to show their services live on Facebook.

Kimberly Kelsey, owner of Noble & Kelsey Funeral Home, said the business has cut back its hours — from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to, now, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. At 2 p.m., the funeral home is disinfected. They have told the families and friends of the deceased not to shake hands, hug or kiss and to practice social distancing.

The funeral home has posted on their office door and on Facebook: “Please do not enter the funeral home if you are sick with a fever, cold or have had a fever of unknown origin within the past 72 hours. If you have been in an area of high risk for COVID-19, traveled internationally or been in contact with anyone confirmed or being evaluated for COVID-19 in the last two weeks, please do not enter the funeral home.”

Bobby Branum, manager at Linn-Honeycutt Funeral Home in China Grove, said, “We, as a funeral home, and me, as a manager, we’re doing everything we can do for our families to keep them safe and the staff safe as well.”

Branum said they are keeping everything sanitized and requested families that come in for appointments its limited to essential members.

Staton Summersett Carter, funeral director and owner at Summersett Funeral Home and Cremation Center, said he has a responsibility to lessen the burden of COVID-19 and slow down the spread.

Will Staton, treasurer at Powles Staton Funeral Home, said appointments are limited to three or four family members. They have recommended picking out service preferences online.

Families have been understanding of the restrictions, Branum said. Some are disappointed they couldn’t do what they wanted. But, Branum said, he is concentrated on the continued health and safety of the families and the staff.

Carter said Summersett’s goal is to still have a meaningful memorial and help families in a difficult time. Everyone is showing compassion to all that are involved — the families and staff, he said.

Worldwide communities have been devastated by COVID-19, which has caused thousands of deaths. And funeral homes are thinking about the possibility of an uptick of deaths.

“Should anything like that happen, we’re prepared as we possibly can be,” Branum said.

Staton said they have received questions about what would happen if COVID-19 hits the community hard. Will they continue to come pick up deceased relatives?

“We will come out and pick up their loved ones,” he said.

States have a plan, too, if there is a mass-fatality.

“Funeral directors will play a very important role in the event of a mass-fatality, such as a pandemic flu, a natural disaster or other catastrophic event,” the National Funeral Directors Association stated. “Families and communities will count on you to provide the same high level of care and compassion for families during such a challenging time as they do today. Your funeral home and staff should be prepared to serve families and your community during mass-fatality situations.”