Funeral homes restricting crowds, urging families to delay services

New funeral protocol in central Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Facets of life upended by the coronavirus pandemic include customs and traditions surrounding death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance Monday to funeral directors, including a recommendation to stream services online.

Public health officials had called Sunday for the cancellation of gatherings involving 50 or more people.

An Indianapolis-based funeral home that held services for multiple coronavirus victims implemented even tighter restrictions on gatherings, limiting its ceremonies to 10 people.

David Ring, the owner of Indiana Funeral Care, said three Hoosiers whose deaths were confirmed to be linked to COVID-19 were laid to rest by his staff.

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They also handled several presumed cases, he said Wednesday in a FaceTime interview with News 8.

Ring described the disruptions wrought by coronavirus — including the emotional fallout of new funeral protocol — as “new territory.”

“I feel so sorry for the families that we’re serving, as we always do, but especially now,” he told News 8. “They want to have a service to honor a loved one and they’re not able to do so as they’ve traditionally known.”

Although he and his staff were trained to limit their exposure to infectious diseases, Ring voiced concerns about relatives of coronavirus patients (who had possibly been exposed to the novel virus) making arrangements in-person at Indiana Funeral Care locations.

He urged all clients to use their online planning services to slow the spread of the virus.

Grieving relatives intent on organizing large gatherings are encouraged to delay funerals amid rising infection and death rates, he added.

“They don’t necessarily have to have a large gathering now,” Ring told News 8. “Even if they want to see their loved one in a casket or see them before they’re cremated, they can come back a month or two from now — whatever is appropriate — and still honor that loved one’s life.”

Indiana Funeral Care staffers are sanitizing “before, after and during” services, they said.

Additional precautions include asking people to immediately dispose of pens after signing funeral guest books.