Local funeral homes changing policies amid COVID-19 pandemic

Coronavirus

WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) – As cases start to pop up across the state of West Virginia, we’re quickly learning that many of those cases are travel related. But, over the weekend we learned of two cases that we’re linked to attending a funeral— something many funeral directors across the Ohio Valley say was probably preventable.

In the light of all non-essential businesses being shut down starting tomorrow at 8 p.m., funeral homes do want to stress they are considered essential. And although times are difficult if you are dealing with a death in your family, it’s important funeral homes implement restrictions to services, because spreading the Coronavirus could result in even more tragedy.

Social distancing… stay inside when possible… limit gatherings to ten people or less… these are guidelines recommended by the CDC and reminded to you in each of our newscasts. It’s affecting everyone globally. But when it comes to the death of a loved one… this might not be the first thing that comes to mind.

The problem is that when a death occurs, it doesn’t matter what else is going on in the world. Your world stops. And so, we are very sensitive to that. We know that the services we provide are extremely to this family and that grieving process. You just don’t have a hold button or a pause button on grief.

GENE FEHEY – VP ALTMEYER FUNERAL HOMES

But the situation at hand with the Coronavirus is very real and serious. And local funeral homes, like Altmeyer and Kepner, understand that. So, they’re doing their part and changing the protocol for the time being.

We had a funeral a week or two ago where the son came up to me and said he received a lot of calls from elderly so said they felt uncomfortable coming to the funeral home that were family members, but they passed on their condolences over the phone. He also received some calls from people that said they weren’t feeling well and passed on their condolences on to the family.

JIM KEPNER – CO-PRESIDENT, KEPNER FUNERAL HOMES “

Right now. Both funeral homes are following guidelines and only allowing 10 people in a room, and they’re practicing social distancing by not allowing personal contact during their services. And although it’s been hard, they say they’re making it work.

People are asking for more private visitations than public visitations. So, even if we have a large family, we’re either scheduling them at different times to come in and pay their final respects, or we’re putting them in different rooms and kind of shuttling them through as best as we can.

GENE FEHEY – VP ALTMEYER FUNERAL HOMES

They’re also suggesting families to postpone celebrations of life until after the pandemic settles. Both homes say they understand how trying these times are for everyone, and they’re thanking their guests for understanding.

 I think, and I hope, that we’re out of the woods sooner than not, but we just have to be prepared for anything going forward. We have to protect our staff and we have to protect the people we serve.

JIM KEPNER – CO-PRESIDENT, KEPNER FUNERAL HOMES

As for their staff, both homes are using universal precautions. This means they’re treating anyone who has deceased as if they have infections or diseases, meaning staff members wear masks, gloves, and protective gear at pickups. Altmeyer also says all employees are having their temperature taken routinely as well.

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