COLUMBUS, OH (WCMH) — More than 430,000 people in the U.S. have died from the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. Funeral directors and their staff members say they’ve been risking exposure to the coronavirus to help families find closure.
Funeral directors say they are at risk from the moment they begin working with someone.
“They are going into hospitals, navigating their way through hallways up to COVID floors, into the decedents’ room to transfer a decedent into their care,” said Melissa Sullivan, Executive Director of the Ohio Funeral Directors Association.
After that, funeral directors meet with the family to plan the service, which they also attend with a group of friends and family.
“We try to limit the numbers, but still, how do you tell somebody, ‘hey you have three kids, we can only meet with two of you,’” said Devin Woodyard, Funeral Director and Vice President of O.R. Woodyard Co. Funeral & Cremation Service.
As Ohio begins to administering vaccinations to its second priority group, death care workers are lobbying to be included in the plan. They say with staff members getting sick and a surge of deaths in Ohio, they’re having trouble keeping up.
“It has at this point hit breaking points for many funeral homes,” said Sullivan.
These risks are why the Ohio Funeral Directors Association sent a letter to Governor DeWine asking to be included in vaccinations. Governor DeWine said Thursday it’s something they are reviewing.
“Certainly, keeping funerals, tragically, keeping that moving forward obviously is very important so we are looking at this and we’re reviewing it,” said Governor DeWine (R-OH).
While they wait on news from the Governor, funeral directors like Weston Snyder say they will.
“It’s 24/7, 365 days somebody has to respond,” said Snyder, Vice President of Snyder Funeral Homes. “You can’t just say ‘no, I’m not coming.’ In return, you have to have the staff to be able to do that.”