Funeral homes feeling ‘overwhelmed’ from COVID-19 pandemic

Funeral homes feeling ‘overwhelmed’ from COVID-19 pandemic

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - As the pandemic continues, funeral homes are having to adapt quickly during the deadly COVID-19 public health emergency.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not the first mass casualty event that Don Simpson has responded to.

“The first response I made was in 1969 in Shelby County, it was a plane crash,” Simpson, the Alexander Funeral Director and a trainer with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security said. “I was at 9/11, spending time at medical examiner’s offices in New York City. During Katrina and Rita, we were on the gulf coast for about a month doing recoveries and identifications there.”

As the director of the Alexander Funeral Home, Simpson says the response to the pandemic has been much different.

“So it’s affected all of our lives,” Simpson said. “It’s made changes, how we do business, how we function and interact with people. So, it’s basically made major changes in how we as human beings conduct our daily lives and how we live our lives. So I think that’s the most unique part of this particular experience, it’s not just a particular area or areas that have been affected.”

The pandemic has increased the number of bodies that hospitals have to manage, especially in counties like Vanderburgh and Warrick that have limited to no morgue space.

Simpson says it has overwhelmed funeral homes.

“Sometimes our staff takes on more hours, there are more things to do,” Simpson said. “I think in general for each and every one of us it just gets busier. So we operate with the procedures that are in the community, operate within the procedures within whatever facility we’re in.”

He also says equipment like mobile morgues can also take some of the pressure off of funeral homes.

“I think having a plan and or an availability like that available in your management skills, I think it’s a good thing,” Simpson said.

Simpson says staying on top of procedures, good communication between county officials and proper procedures have allowed them to adjust to the higher quantity of bodies needing stored.

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