Funeral homes enforce changes to services during pandemic

Kruger-Coan Funeral Home in Danville, as all funeral homes, is having to deal with new guidelines and restrictions since the spread of the COVID-a9 virus.

DANVILLE — Saying goodbye is an essential part of the grief process.

And even though government restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people includes funerals, area funeral directors are trying to be as accommodating as possible while still following suggested guidelines.

"We're still honoring lives and doing what we have always done in the past," said Rich Darby, a co-owner of Sunset Funeral Homes. "We're just doing it a bit differently."

If the family still wants a public visitation, Darby said Sunset is prepared to increase the number of hours so that visitors can be spread out.

Staff members will be present to see that the correct numbers are inside.

However, Darby said the public seems to be staying home like the government has requested.

"We're starting to see it already," he said. "The general public isn't showing up like they would. The near-and-dear family and friends are showing up, but the general public at large — that on any other day would show up — aren't showing up now."

Robison Chapel is also following guidelines and adding that the family will not be present during visitations.

Mike Robison, owner of the Catlin funeral home, said they are offering to connect people with counselors if they desire it.

"Even though the funeral isn't here, the pain and grieving is still here, and we have to take care of that, too," Robison said.

Funerals are family-only at both Robison and Sunset, but in order for more people to participate, Sunset will video-record the service and give the family a link to be shared publicly or through their website.

They are also using a smartphone app called Live Event, which provides higher quality images than Facebook Live, and has purchased a microphone to patch into the sound system.

"The quality of the service will be just as if the people were there," Darby said.

Worries over the coronavirus are only compounded with the death of a loved one. People expect when the inevitable happens to be able to gather together and remember that person.

Circumstances lately have changed that, however. But people have mostly been understanding, Robison said.

"As with anything, change is not something that anybody likes," he said. "Fortunately, they are coming to an understanding. As far as backlash, there has been none."

Sunset said they will be cleaning door handles, knobs, faucets, toilets and water fountains — anything that might receive an abundance of human contact — every four hours with an antibacterial agent. Hand sanitizer and Kleenex will also be available for those who are attending any services.

A coronavirus emergency plan is available via Sunset's website, and Robison has a page dedicated to the issue as well.

The National Funeral Directors Association has been a big help in supplying recommendations and keeping funeral directors updated on what the CDC is doing.

"I have been stuck to my computer monitor and my television watching everything throughout the day," Darby said. "One day we had a mandate of 50 people or less, and then two hours later, it was down to 10 or less. It's changing that fast. We have to be fluent in making sure we protect the public, but my staff as well."

Sunset is even going so far as to clean the pens after each sign-in of the registry and is developing a digital version of that for the future. Robison has rotated his staff so they aren't all together at the same time and has had to furlough others.

"All this changes day-by-day, minute-by-minute," Robison said Friday before a planned press conference by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on the state's plans moving forward.

To keep up to date with changes in funeral home policies during the remainder of the pandemic, call the funeral homes or visit their websites.