Local families who have lost loved ones during the current COVID-19 outbreak are facing a difficult decision about whether to postpone funeral services as gatherings of 25 or more are discouraged by state health officials.
The family of 71-year-old Francis Cross, who died on Sunday, has delayed services in order to protect the health of those who would attend, according to an obituary to be published in Wednesday's Daily Mountain Eagle.
"A memorial service will be held at a time to be determined this summer, when large gatherings do not pose health risks for those attending and when her surviving family members are able to travel to Jasper to celebrate Francis's life," the obituary from Kilgore-Green Funeral Home reads.
A statement posted on Kilgore-Green's website lists the following steps being taken as a result of the virus: conducting enhanced cleaning procedures, while increasing the frequency of sanitizing, in line with recommendations from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); offering phone and email arrangements to meet the needs of families and guests; and adjusting services and number of guests in attendance according to the directives of local and state authorities.
Mike Harris, manager of Collins-Burke Funeral Home, said their doors will remain open to the public unless instructed otherwise by the Alabama Board of Funeral Service.
At least five funerals are set to take place at the funeral home this week, according to obituaries previously printed in the Eagle.
Harris said the Collins-Burke chapel has ample space for families to observe social distancing during services, and families are also expecting a smaller gathering because of COVID-19 concerns.
"Some of the families have said they know things won't be as large as normal due to the circumstances now. Most of these families are not expecting a large crowd at all," Harris said.
In the event that Collins-Burke must close to the public, directors will continue to go out into the community for removal of the deceased, Harris said.
Harris, who has been in the business for 40 years, added that the current situation is unprecedented.
"I've never seen anything like it. We're just trying to get the good Lord to guide us and get us through this," Harris said.
Service Corporation International, which operates the Dignity Memorial network of which Kilgore-Green is a part, issued the following statement on Tuesday: “As part of our commitment to client families, we guard their privacy and do not discuss specific matters with the media. We are working to ensure our communities can continue holding services for their loved ones, and are meeting with client families individually to identify solutions that meet the guidelines implemented by provinces, states and municipalities. We are also following (the CDC's) guidance regarding public gatherings.
"We are exploring technology alternatives, where available, to stream services online which will aid in reducing the number of people at a service. These arrangements will be managed on a case-by-case basis. We are cooperating with all local, state and federal authorities, including (the CDC). We strive to follow internal health, safety and environmental procedures and adhere to all industry regulations to ensure measures are in place to protect decedents, their families, our employees and the community.”