Letter: Funeral workers playing their part in the COVID-19 pandemic
Published 6:30 am Saturday, December 5, 2020
As the executive director of the Minnesota Funeral Directors Association, I have the privilege of working with funeral directors and understand, as much as a layperson can, what they encounter on a daily basis. We are currently receiving many inquiries about funeral services and the impact of COVID-19, and I want to take this opportunity to help everyone understand the current situation, and funeral service overall.
Funeral homes are very busy keeping the families they serve and funeral home staff safe. Their main goal is to assist families in a way that allows for dignity, respect, and the beginning of shared grief. This all takes time.
However, this is not new because of the pandemic; it is what funeral directors have done from the beginning of time. Funeral homes continue to use the protocols set by Governor Walz and the Minnesota Department of Health Mortuary Science Section in an effort to keep everyone safe. Currently, funeral homes do have the capacity to serve the number of deaths. Obviously, this could change as fatality numbers are increasing. For some perspective, in 2019 the total number of deaths in Minnesota were 45,395, which was an increase of .015 percent over 2018. For 2020, as of September 30, the total deaths statewide were 36,488. We do anticipate the numbers to be higher by the end of the year, but not by a significant margin.
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Funeral directors, as medical professionals, know they can reach out to other funeral directors for assistance when necessary. This professional community includes physicians, medical examiners, the Minnesota Department of Health Mortuary Science Section and Department of Vital Records.
We all hear about our many healthcare workers on the front lines of this pandemic, and we truly owe them a debt of gratitude. They are the first responders. But we also need to remember our last responders, our funeral directors and others working with grieving families right now. They are the final encounter many of these families will have after having gone through what is surely a tremendously difficult time with their loved one dying. Our funeral directors are among the most compassionate, kindest people you will ever meet, in a profession they love and take great pride in. They do this work because they care for the families they work with.
So, yes, they are busy. Yes, it is just as hard on them as on other medical professionals and other families who are working to keep their loved ones safe while continuing to provide essential services. I am so proud to be a small part of this industry, and to call so many of these people friends.
Darlyne L. Erickson,
Minnesota Funeral Directors Association