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The COVID-19 pandemic has had major effects on almost all businesses. The Bulletin reached out to Chad Getz of Getz Funeral Home to ask about operations in his industry during the pandemic.
Bulletin: How has planning and executing a funeral changed in the time of COVID?
Chad Getz: The biggest change comes in the planning of a funeral or memorial service. Most of our arrangement conferences are done over the phone and with electronic signatures. If someone has the need to come in and make arrangements in person, we can have two representatives of the family come in. This is much different than the way we used to do it. Before COVID-19, we regularly had 10 -12 family members in a room working on what they would like to do to honor their loved one.
Executing a funeral hasn’t changed much. We still follow all protocols of the church in which we are having the service, or beliefs of the family. Some families choose to just have people get up and tell stories of their loved one. The biggest hardship is only having five people in the service that are immediate family only. I have had people tell me that they have been to services where the firm lets five people in each room of their facility and rotates them. To me, this does not make any sense, because you’re just moving people from one contaminated place to another, exposing everyone in the facility.
Bulletin: What precautions does your staff take when meeting with families?
Getz: When meeting with families, we require our staff to wear a mask and minimize contact. This is hard for us in such a tight-knit community, where hugging is just a step above a handshake. We’re used to being there to comfort, support and guidance. Now, we just have to use our words a little better.
Bulletin: If you know a person died of COVID, are there different protocols for handling/preparing the body?
Getz: Yes, we do use a higher level of personal protective equipment (PPE) when an individual has COVID, using respirators instead of masks and limiting the number of employees who are in direct contact with the deceased. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that a deceased can be embalmed and buried. According to the CDC, there is not a concern of contracting COVID while in the same room as a deceased, but they do recommend not touching or kissing the individual if they did have COVID.
Bulletin: What platform(s) are you using to facilitate video services?
Getz: We decided to go with Facebook live. The equipment we purchased has the ability to give us high quality video through Facebook, and it’s portable. We can broadcast from any facility with WIFI or cell service.
Bulletin: Do you get about the same number of viewers via video as you were used to pre-COVID?
Getz: Some of the greatest steps forward in life have come out of hardships. I don’t know that any firm in the area had any form of webcasting before this. Adaptation is key. I have had services with five people in attendance but 250 watching safely from home. For a long time, I’ve seen large families worry about scheduling services where everyone can make it. They worry about the one family member out of 12 that can’t make it. This will continue to give that family member a chance to participate in a small way, even after this pandemic is under control.
Bulletin: What’s the future look like for your industry in the near future if the stay-home order is lifted?
Getz: I think this is something that will affect our lives forever. One of the things that makes our community so amazing is how tight our families are. Even if you aren’t blood family, you’re still family. Many of us grew up in each other’s homes. This makes social distancing hard for many people. Hugging, physical comforting and outward expressions of grief are a big part of our culture. I don’t think that will change. I think technology helps us improve what we are already doing
Bulletin: What have been the hardest adjustments for you and your staff during this weirdest of times?
Getz: I think the hardest adjustment for us is not having as much face-to-face contact with our families. Sometimes you can see in the face of someone if they just need a hug, or just need a shoulder to cry on for a minute or just to have someone help them get through a time that will ultimately be one of the hardest of their lives.