ST. ANN, MO - The National Funeral Directors Association announced that the DHS and CISA have officially deemed mortuary workers as "critical infrastructure workers" as death rates continue to rise across the nation due to COVID-19. Though the funeral business will go on, the way that business is conducted will look a lot different.
Funeral homes and cemeteries are having to abide by new CDC and federal regulations. All public gatherings have been limited to a maximum of 10 people. Six to eight workers are standard for a basic funeral service. Archway Memorial Chapel in Hazelwood confirmed that they only allowed two family members in the building to pay their respects to a lost loved one while others wanting to do the same waited in the parking lot at their services this past weekend.
Thomas Collier, owner of Collier's Funeral Home in St. Ann, is experiencing similar issues.
"These days it's 10 people or less, so, families are doing alternative things like maybe a direct burial or a direct cremation with services at a later date," said Collier.
Burial procedures are also changing rapidly. Jefferson Barracks and St. Peters Cemetery are two locations that have stopped holding services in their on-site chapels for now. The Archdiocese of St. Louis has also issued guidelines for their cemeteries that will prevent people from visiting grave sites for the time being. Some cemeteries won’t even allow friends or family members to exit their vehicles. They have to watch the interment of a casket from their cars to adhere to social distancing regulations.
The rendering of military funeral honors for eligible veterans has been discontinued as of Monday, Mach 23rd until further notice.
Since this pandemic is fluid, no one really knows if or when the funeral business will return back to normal. For now, funeral directors are encouraging people to pay their respects and condolences in other ways.
An alternative way to get in touch with the family would be donations through a charity, flowers, or phone calls. I'm sure any form of kindness would be appreciated," said Thomas Collier.
Those looking to send flowers, call, or send messages should only do so at the discretion of the family of the deceased to their personal address. Funeral homes will no longer be accepting gifts on the family's behalf to prevent the spread of the virus.