Area funeral homes adjust to changed landscape

Published: Mar. 30, 2020 at 2:03 PM EDT
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A funeral for a loved one is usually never much in doubt, but in these uncertain times of the coronavirus, funeral directors have to adjust to a new reality -- postponing or limiting the number of the mourners.

At the LaVigne Funeral Home in Winooski, owner Jim Kennedy is putting large services on hold. "For the most part, we are canceling or delaying any funerals until everything clears up," Kennedy said.

He says the coronas virus has altered the way people grieve in a way that he couldn't imagine just a few weeks ago. "So we've instituted a policy of private viewing of only immediate family of five people or less. The reason we do that is because we have to have staff as well," Kennedy said.

He says the grief is compounded by this new reality. Last week was his first call to remove a body who had succumbed to the virus. "Unfortunately, we know with everything that is going on in the nursing homes, we know there will be more," Kennedy said.

Chris Palermo is president of the Vermont Funeral Home Directors Association, and group representing 46 funeral homes in the state.

Reporter Joe Carroll: These are unusually times, right?

Chris Palermo: They are extremely usual times, unprecedented on many levels. It's something that, you know, in several generations we haven't had to face.

Five-thousand people die a year in Vermont and the great majority are handled by funeral homes. Palermo says there are CDC guidelines on handling COVID-19 that he's passed out to members. "It's really no different than any other infectious disease that funeral homes deal with. The protocols are all the same, but it is a reminder of how the disease spreads," he said.

Palermo is telling members to follow Governor Scott's mandate. Stay home and stay safe. Until then the grieving process with have to wait.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Do people understand, family members?

Jim Kennedy: Ninety-nine-point-nine percent understood or either are calling us to institute the same thing themselves.

Kennedy says it's much easier to postpone funerals. He says 75 percent of his clients choose to be cremated.

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