The coronavirus has not only affected how people live, but even how they they’re honored after they die.
Grand Strand funeral homes are taking a wide range of precautions. Some are postponing funerals. Others are putting masks on the faces of the deceased or taking the temperatures of visitors. One even offers a “drive-thru viewing.”
“The community as a whole is looking for us to have solutions,” said Goldfinch Funeral Services owner Meghan Goldfinch-Hayden, adding that she is focused on holding services that are both meaningful and safe.
One way Goldfinch is doing that is offering private video streaming for families.
“We don’t do public streaming, but the family will receive a link they can send out,” she said. “If we get a call, we can refer the caller to that family member.”
Goldfinch has six locations throughout the area. The funeral home is practicing social distancing, keeping sanitizers throughout their buildings for staff and visitors to use, and thoroughly sanitizing and re-sanitizing buildings every four hours.
The families Goldfinch has served since the outbreak of the coronavirus have been “extremely understanding,” Goldfinch-Hayden said.
“The family needs to be served and the funeral needs to happen in the best way we can let that happen so that families can go on with their grieving process,” she said. “We are an essential business and we’re taking this seriously.”
Conway’s Watson Funeral Services & Crematory has also had to make adjustments.
“This is unprecedented,” owner Barry Watson said. “They don’t know everything about the coronavirus. There’s no treatment for it, and so we have to take all precautions.”
At Watson’s business, those precautions include everything from wearing boot-like disposable foot coverings and masks when they go into the home of a deceased person to having drive-thru viewings for family and friends.
“When this funeral home was built, a window was put in so people can sign a register and view their loved one and never have to get out of their vehicle,” Watson said.
So far, this option has been used once.
The business is also limiting the number of guests at services, enforcing social distancing and sanitizing surfaces repeatedly.
“We don’t know how long this virus can live, so we’re using common sense,” Watson said.
Bob Borning, funeral director at Myrtle Beach Funeral Home, said his business is “taking every precaution but still trying in every way to honor the family’s wishes.”
“Lysol is a constant here,” he said. “And we’re cleaning and disinfecting any surface anyone may touch or sit on.”
The funeral home is still having traditional and graveside services, but it has not yet had any instances when they’ve had to enforce crowd control restraints.
“People can sit staggered in our chapel, so nobody has to sit elbow-to-elbow, and we are trying to limit people in the building to 50 or less at one time,” Borning said. “When we take a loved one into our care, we are asking our people to place a mask on the deceased’s face so there is less chance of the transmission of bodily fluids through the expulsion of air through the lungs. People are accepting and understanding because they want to be safe.”
Marvin Latimer, owner of Latimer’s Funeral Home in Conway, said the coronavirus reminds him of another epidemic.
“No hand shaking, no hugging and no kissing,” he said. “This reminds us of when the AIDS virus came out in the ‘80s and nobody knew how to proceed, and this is more communicable, so the jury is still out.”
When Latimer’s holds services at the graveside, people are still being admonished to stay 6 feet away from each other.
Many of the families the funeral home serves are members of the African Methodist Episcopal Coalition, which has mandated not to have church services or funerals until April 1.
Latimer said attendance at the funerals that are being held is minimal because people are concerned.
“Even with a hurricane, that passes and we can go back to normal,” he said. “But that’s not so this time because nobody knows what’s going to happen.”
No-touch temperatures of guests are being taken at Loris’ United Funeral Home, said Milton Stubbs, the company’s general manager.
If guests have a temperature of 100.4 or higher, that is reported to DHEC, but Stubbs said that has not been the case yet.
Up to 10 people at a time are being allowed into the chapel, and standard sanitations measures are being taken.
Face masks and hand washing material are available at the front door of the funeral home.
“And after every visitation, everything is washed down with three-parts water and one-part bleach,” Stubbs said.
Allen Lee of Lee Funeral Home & Crematory in Little River said clients are being asked to either postpone funeral services or have private gatherings with immediate family only.
This week, two private gatherings with about 15 people were held in the facility’s chapel.
And like other similar facilities, Lee staff is sanitizing everything four times a day.
“Doorknobs, computers, telephones, restrooms, everything,” Lee said.
The funeral home also has kits in its vehicles to supply staff with everything they need, from face shields to full garments, to keep them protected.
“We don’t know if anyone where we’re going had the virus, but we are prepared,” Lee said. “We’re all in this together.”