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Shawnee area funeral homes hold services, take necessary precautions amid COVID-19 pandemic

Elisabeth Slay

In accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) and other health organizations, funeral homes throughout Pottawatomie County are still holding services of 50 or less and taking proper safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

According to Doug Walker, owner of Walker Funeral Service, his facility is following guidelines from the CDC and the NFDA by offering services of 50 people or less, sanitizing all surfaces people come in contact with and disinfecting shared spaces.

Walker said the chapel in his funeral home is large enough to hold 50 people or less and still maintain social distancing.

In addition to typical cleaning services, Walker Funeral Service is also deep cleaning its facility and disinfecting on a regular basis throughout the day.

Walker said his funeral home typically doesn't have multiple services a day and on the rare occasion that it does, there is enough time between each service for his staff to clean and disinfect everything for the next group of people.

Despite the current health situation, Walker said his business is still dedicated to providing families the proper services for their loved ones or friends, while maintaining the safety of his staff and the community.

Should a family request to have more than 50 people in a service, Walker said he would work with them as best as he could to ensure they have a proper service or memorial.

Walker explained he has recently looked into purchasing equipment that would allow families to live stream services for those who could not be in attendance, but he has yet to make a decision and is taking it into consideration during these uncertain times.

As time goes on, Walker said Walker Funeral Service will continue monitoring the situation and change is policies as new information is presented.

Similar to Walker Funeral Services, Resthaven Funeral Home in Shawnee is taking the necessary safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Resthaven is one of several funeral homes owned by Service Corporation International throughout the country working with families as they plan a service during the pandemic.

"As part of our commitment to client families, we guard their privacy and do not discuss specific matters with the media. We are working to ensure our communities can continue holding services for their loved ones, and are meeting with client families individually to identify solutions that meet the guidelines implemented by states and municipalities," Service Corporation International said in a statement.

The corporation is also following guidelines set by the CDC and other health organizations regarding public gatherings.

"We are exploring technology alternatives, where available, to stream services online which will aid in reducing the number of people at a service," Service Corporation International said. "These arrangements will be managed on a case-by-case basis. We are cooperating with all local, state and federal authorities, including the (CDC)."

The corporation is also instructing its funeral homes to understand the importance of these methods as they will ensure people's safety.

"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," Service Corporation International said.

In Tecumseh, Cooper Funeral Home is also dedicated and prepared to assist families during this pandemic.

In a press release, Cooper Funeral Home explains how it would be when holding and preparing services for individuals who have passed away due to the coronavirus.

"According to the CDC, at this time, there is no known risk associated with being in the same room at a funeral or visitation service with the body of someone who died of confirmed or suspected COVID-19, however, federal, state and local public health guidance may impact the size of gathering a family is able to plan," the press release said. "Depending on a family’s preferences, their loved one can be safely embalmed. Families may chose either burial or cremation as usual."

According to owner J. Cooper, Cooper Funeral Home is still working with families as they arrange services for their loved ones.

“At Cooper Funeral Home, we recognize our responsibility to protect the health of those we are privileged to serve,” Cooper said. “We will continue to guide families, as we always have, in ways they can meaningfully commemorate the life of their loved one, while adhering to the guidance issued by federal, state and local public health officials.”

Much like other area funeral homes, Cooper explained his facility is following guidelines from the CDC, NFDA and other health organizations by providing antibacterial dispensing for all walk-in traffic, enhancing the cleaning schedule according to public health guidelines, continuously disinfecting all solid surfaces and encouraging employees who are sick to stay home.

“Our staff remains vigilant about cleaning our facilities and ensuring we are following recommended healthy habits, such as staying home when sick, washing our hands and covering coughs and sneezes," Cooper said. "The CDC and our state and local public health officials have offered helpful guidance for businesses on this topic, which we continue to follow.”

As time goes on, these and other funeral homes throughout the county and state will continue to monitor the pandemic and follow guidelines from health organizations such as the CDC and NFDA.