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Funeral homes strive to continue services during coronavirus outbreak

LISBON — Like everyone else, Greg Weber is operating in unchartered territory as he grapples with the new reality of being a funeral home director during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Weber Funeral Home is handling its first death since the Center For Disease Control recommended all gatherings not exceed 10 people, and the family of the deceased parent was more than understanding. Although their pre-arranged funeral plans included calling hours, the children of the deceased decided to cancel it. They are having a prayer service at the funeral home with just the children present, but there is no graveside ceremony afterwards.

A daughter who lives out of state did not want not to fly in under the circumstances, so the family decided to have a service in several months, which a number of people in similar circumstances are opting to do.

“People understand the restrictions we’re under and are showing common sense,” Weber said. “In this case the family just thought it was prudent to have a private ceremony with just the immediate family and the priest.”

For guidance, Weber called a funeral home operator friend in Mahoning County and also turned to Ohio Funeral Directors Association. While the Ohio Department of Health directive has recommended no gatherings in excess of 50, with funeral homes exempted, Weber said the association is recommending funeral homes follow the CDC guidelines, and Gov. Mike DeWine is also asking survivors hold small memorial services.

Weber said he knows one funeral home went ahead with calling hours but roped off the area around the casket so friends and other relatives could pay their respects. The family stood off the side to acknowledge those who showed up but there was no receiving line or other interaction.

“Everybody wants to give a hug and a handshake, but how do you do that when you are to stay six feet away,” he said.

Weber understands from talking with his friend that many people who wanted a traditional funeral are opting for cremation under the circumstances and are holding off holding on a memorial service and burial until the crisis passes.

Just as the crisis is causing a financial hardship on other businesess, abbreviated funerals will end up hurting funeral home operators, as well.“We can’t provide the services we typically provide,” Weber said.

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