As the weeks pass by under our “new normal”, OGR members continue to share with one another best practices, questions and support. During OGR’s weekly online round table, members discuss challenges and relevant tips for handling the coronavirus. A summary of last week’s discussion is below.

Current Challenges

  • Difficulty following protocol: Families are tired of wearing masks and when businesses have started opening, families may be resistant to wearing masks in the funeral home.
  • Revenue: Lack of memorial services is a challenge financially for funeral homes.
  • Crematory: Lack of crematory on premises is creating a delay in getting someone cremated. Peter Urban of Anton B. Urban Funeral Home shared that in his area, Ambler, PA, the crematory he uses limits itself to 40 bodies per day (seven retorts) and the first appointment he can get is on May 8. In New Jersey, Frank Patti, Jr. mentioned that it can take up to three weeks to get an appointment for a cremation.
  • Repercussions of Staff COVID-19 Positive: During the call, it was reported that a non-OGR member funeral home had a staff member test positive for the coronavirus. Since the firm had been busy serving families, there were not enough staff to schedule split shifts. Therefore, all staff were exposed and ordered by the health department to self-quarantine for 14 days at home. They have tried to continue serving families but doing so has been difficult. This could happen at any funeral home, so use this as a cautionary tale to re-evaluate your staffing and make adjustments in case you find yourself in a similar situation.

Suggestions for Staffing

During the round table, different members shared ideas for how they’ve staffed their funeral homes during COVID-19.

  • If possible, split staff so that they work different shifts. Some staff start early and leave early, others start later and leave later. One member schedules staff 4 days on, 4 days off.
  • If possible, have one funeral director work from home. He or she can take care of the arrangement conferences with families, while other staff handles the removals, body preparation and other on-site tasks. Also, keep one funeral director out of the prep room to minimize exposure.
  • If you can train extra people now on a part-time basis, do it. You need staff who are trained to do a transfer and are healthy.
  • Be sure you have cross trained your staff in all roles that they are legally able to perform.

Looking Ahead – Suggestions for Preparing for after COVID-19

  • If you anticipate a surge in deaths in your area, research where you can reserve a refrigerated truck.
  • Overstock PPE, body bags, sanitizer and other items as they become available.
  • Consider purchasing or building stanchions to rope people off for crowd control.
  • Shower caps can be placed over the deceased’s face when making a transport or removal to block exhalation of air.
  • Plan a community memorial service in the fall, if it is safe by that time to gather, for all families you served during the COVID-19 restrictions. Note: OGR will be putting together a templated service for you to use.

Finally…

Be sure to check out the COVID-19 page on the OGR website: www.ogr.org/covid19

OGR’s next round table will be held Thursday, May 7 at 3:00 PM EDT. This discussion is open to OGR members only. Learn more and register at www.ogr.org/covid19#Virtual. If you’ve already signed up, no need to register again. It’s the same link each week.


By Jessica S. Riddlesperger, CMP, Assistant Executive Director
and Nancy Weil, Member Resources Director