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Coronavirus impacting funeral homes and services

“Some funerals, there are more than 100 people in the family,” said Renee Donnell. “It’s kind of hard to say you are number 101, and so you can’t come in.”

BURLINGTON, N.C. — While the family makes plans for their loved ones viewing this Friday, Renee Donnell worries about the number coming. Seats are not the concern, it's having so many people in a small chapel.

Renee Donnell and her staff are finalizing the plans for an upcoming viewing and service scheduled for this weekend. The service is not connected to a person who passed from Covid-19 but the funeral home director for Alamance Funeral Service is navigating into unchartered waters. 

“This is a lot different; this is real (Covid-19) we have many cases in the United States."

Donnell and other funeral directors in North Carolina are struggling to find a happy medium between families that want more than 100 people at the service with a concerned staff and an Executive Order from Governor Roy Cooper.

Executive Order 117 prohibits mass gatherings of more than 100 people. 

“Some funerals, there are more than 100 people in the family,” said Donnell. “It’s kind of hard to say you are number 101 and so you can’t come in.”

Donnell wants to be responsible and do her part to slow the spread of the virus, but also wants the families that come to her to have a lasting memory of their loved one. Trying to balance the issue has become a challenge for funeral directors.

While pleasing the family is a priority, she also must consider her staff, many of whom fall into the “at-risk” category. 

“I do worry, I really think about that and it is stressful, it really is,” said Donnell. The last thing she wants to do is ask the elder members of her staff to work during a service with 100 people in a small chapel.

Complicating matters further is that some pastors choose not to mix church and state. A service Donnell has scheduled for this weekend is one of them. 

“This pastor said to me, that I don’t mix church with state, so when you come to our church we will take it from there, we are not going to worry about the 100 people limitation,” said Donnell.

The Governor’s office has suggested people stay away from mass gatherings much smaller, but the Executive Order is 100. Donnell would like the Governor to meet with members of the State Board of Funeral Service to help better understand the issues they are dealing with.

Some funeral homes are offering streaming so that family and friends can watch online or even on Facebook. 

“Family can still be at the service and of course on Facebook. You can leave comments and leave your respect that way,” said Lowe Funeral Home Director Caleb Massey.

The small chapel at Alamance Funeral Home is stocked with hand sanitizer in the front and back of the isles. Donnell says she is not worried about the virus but wants to take precautions for her staff and the families that come visit.

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