Alabama funeral homes overwhelmed by COVID-19 deaths
By WVUA 23 News Reporter Aajene Robinson
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is impacting businesses around the state, but a field hit harder than most is the funeral industry.
Big changes came about at a rapid pace because of the sudden increase in deaths and the potential ramifications of caring for those killed by complications from a deadly virus.
Local funeral home Van Hoose & Steele’s Owner Danny Steele said that while several diseases or viruses remain active after death, there are no guidelines for how long COVID-19 can live in a body after death. That’s a concerning unknown, he said.
“We treat everybody as if they are infected not only with COVID, but with other infectious diseases,” Steele said.
Some of the changes Steele said his business has faced include the decline of limousine use because of social distancing guidelines, fewer graveside services and the way they prepare the deceased.
It’s also changed how Van Hoose & Steele handle funeral arrangements.
“We now do them over the phone, on the internet or through tele conference, so that has been a great change in how the ceremony is actually prepared,” Steele said. “The family really does not have to come to the funeral home as it is right now.”
Another challenge? Acquiring enough caskets.
“A lot of casket companies are experiencing difficulty maintaining order and purchases because of the virus,” Steele said. “As a whole, COVID has changed not only the funeral industry forever but also the world forever.”
Steele said he’s gotten an email from the Alabama Board of Funeral Services recently, predicting the next few months will see difficulties in finding enough room for the deceased.
“They are now surveying funeral homes to see how many extra bodies can we store in our facilities,” Steele said.
Steele said he’s the only person working inside the funeral home full time at the moment. His employees are working from home.
For those who have experienced a loss because of COVID-19, financial help is available for funeral expenses.