Virus Outbreak Spain

Undertakers wearing protection masks to protect from the coronavirus, carry a coffin to a burial at Salvador cemetery during the coronavirus outbreak, near to Vitoria, northern Spain, Monday, March 30, 2020. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)

Livestreaming is not only being used for classes, meetings and hangouts. For families who choose to use Duncan Brothers’ Funeral Home’s end-of-life services, livestreams allow long-distance loved ones to join funerals without risking the spread of COVID-19.

In response to recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, local funeral homes and cemeteries such as Duncan Brothers’ Funeral Home, Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery and Signature Memorial Funeral and Cremation Services are adjusting to allow for social distancing and to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Since Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statewide stay-at-home order March 27, Duncan Brothers Funeral Home has worked to reduce contact by making arrangements with families over the phone and allowing only 10 people to be present at gatherings, said Desmon Duncan-Walker, an office assistant at the funeral home located near downtown Gainesville. 

The funeral home has not yet held a burial of someone who had COVID-19, Duncan-Walker said, but in the case of one, Duncan Brothers’ Funeral Home plans to follow guidelines from the CDC to protect staff and loved ones. 

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, these guidelines include wearing proper personal protective equipment such as a facemask, face shield and disposable gown while embalming the body as well as sanitizing equipment frequently and storing the body in a negative pressure room where air cannot escape.

At Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery, which is located about six miles away from Paynes Prairie, family members will not be allowed to attend burials of those who passed from COVID-19. The burials will be conducted by one staff member, said Freddie Johnson, the executive director.

The cemetery announced Thursday on Facebook that all gatherings, including burials and digs, will also be restricted to 10 people. These restrictions will stay in place until CDC guidelines change, Johnson said. 

Johnson said that Prairie Creek hasn’t handled a burial of someone who passed from COVID-19 yet. As of Sunday night, nobody has died of COVID-19 in Alachua County

“In that case, our policy is to have no one in the immediate area of burial and really to do it on our own,” Johnson said. He added that they would also provide photos or videos of the burial to help family members find peace. At a later date, they will offer the opportunity for families to have a ceremony at the cemetery.

There will also be additional sanitation of tools and equipment used for all burials, Johnson said.

Prairie Creeks plans to analyze each non-COVID-19 related burial on a case-by-case basis in order to have a limit of 10 people present, Johnson said. One possibility, he said, would be to have nine family members and friends and one staff member present.

Tony Tanner, the owner of Signature Memorial Funeral and Cremation Services located in East Gainesville, said they have been replacing traditional church funeral services with graveside ones. Holding the service outdoors, he said, allows families to practice social distancing if they wish. 

“Any funeral service outside still gives the family the opportunity to gain closure and exercise tradition,” Tanner said. 

Duncan-Walker said that while this has been a hard time for funeral homes, she recognizes the even greater challenges faced by grieving families and loved ones who can’t be around each other due to social distancing. 

“It’s a challenge,” Duncan-Walker said. “We’re doing our best to balance compassion with adhering to the guidelines.”

Contact Sarah Mandile at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sarahmandile.