Georgetown | October 2020

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COVID19 impacts the funeral business and grieving families

“With all the precautions we have to take … it’s limiting families to what services [families] can do.” MARK RAMSEY, OWNER OF RAMSEY FUNERAL HOME AND CREMATION SERVICES

BY ALI LINAN

Funerals, through various traditions, serve as a point of closure for grieving families. But since the pandemic began in mid-March, the once norm of oering hugs, hand-holding and other means of comfort are encouraged to remain minimal, if at all. Attendance is asked to be kept to immediate fam- ily and close friends. And those who previously would have traveled to bury a loved one are now watching events virtually. For the Perry family, this became evident fol- lowing the death of Georgetown resident Emanuel “Manny” Perry, a 27-year army veteran who served three tours in Vietnam. Manny was known as a jokester, always available for a laugh and a hug. His family said he loved sh- ing, golng and being around loved ones. A hus- band, father of ve and grandfather of “10 and a half” as one is on the way, Manny died from conges- tive heart failure on Sept. 14. He was 83. “The only thing dierent is I’ve had several friends who have sent condolences and said they wished they could be here, but for instance they are teachers and are scared to death of exposing someone in their classrooms,” Georgetown resi- dent Maryanne Perry said. “That’s been the biggest adjustment for me.” It was a similar experience for Reyna Ruiz, who buried her mom, Maria Valeria Hernandez Maya, in July. Hernandez Maya died from kidney and liver failure. She was 79. Hernandez Maya was a retired history professor who also loved to garden and paint, Ruiz said. She added that her charismatic mom also loved to crack jokes, maintaining a positive outlook on life even when she was in pain. While neither Manny nor Hernandez Maya died from the novel coronavirus, their funerals were impacted. The number of guests who could attend in person was limited and typical funeral traditions COVID-19 has impacted how funerals operate. Here are some of the current regulations Georgetown funeral homes are operating under as of Oct. 12. Regulations may vary by home. COVID-19 and funerals 50% Operate at 50% capacity Masks must be worn

Funeral services have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, limiting guests and reducing interactions.

such as family gatherings and life celebrations were kept small. Ruiz said she too had people reach out to her to oer their condolences and say they wish they could have attended the funeral. “It was sad because we had people that wanted to come and be with our family and be supportive but because of their own personal risk factors, they weren’t able to,” Ruiz said. Business of burials The funeral industry—likemost—also had to adjust operations to accommodate pandemic guidelines. For example, atGeorgetown’s three funeral homes, masks are required to be worn while indoors, every other row of pews is blocked o and chapel capacity is limited to 50%. Attendees are asked to maintain 6 feet of distance when not part of an immediate fam- ily, and homes also increased the number of clean- ings it conducted, including after each service. But greatest was the change in use of the funeral home’s live streaming services, said Ralph Kunze, The Gabriels Funeral Chapel and Crematory funeral director. “Families would y in from out of town [to attend a funeral], and now they can’t,” he said. “So we’ve had to get better at the technology side of the indus- try in trying to create the funeral at a distance.”

Mark Ramsey, owner of Ramsey Funeral Home and Cremation Services, agreed, saying while his business has had live streaming and recording of services before the pandemic, it is being utilized much more. Ramsey also said he saw a change in how funerals are conducted. While Ramsey said most of the families he served decided to continue with services regardless of reg- ulations, a few selected postponed services for a time when more people can come together. He said he also saw an increase in requests for entire services to be held at the gravesites where there is a lower risk for coronavirus transmission, according to health experts. “We’re doing a lot of just graveside services where people are out in the open. And then of course, we try to maintain the social distancing,” Ramsey said. Caring for a COVID19 death When it comes to a COVID-19 death, funeral homes have to take special precautions such as keeping the body in a room separate from other bod- ies and those who handle the body are in complete personal protective equipment gear, a standard pro- cedure the homes follow when someone dies from any infectious disease, Ramsey said. But with a COVID-19 death, it is also recommended Final goodbyes There are three funeral homes in Georgetown. 1. Cook-Walden Davis Funeral Home 2. The Gabriels Funeral Chapel and Crematory 3. Ramsey Funeral Home and Cremation Services

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Regular cleanings

Every other pew should be taped o

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Immediate families may sit together while others should keep 6 feet of distance

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SOURCES: COOKWALDEN DAVIS FUNERAL HOME, THE GABRIELS FUNERAL CHAPEL AND CREMATORY, RAMSEY FUNERAL HOME AND CREMATION SERVICESCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

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Funeral home service attendees must wear a mask.

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