Hankins & Whittington: COVID-19 means new normal for funerals, after-life plans

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Hadasa Rivera Marin, Reporter

With the number of cases escalating and deaths rising, families of COVID-19 victims are adjusting to a new normal as after-life plans take on new meaning and risk.

”We have been and are continuing to make preparations so that if we do see an escalation in the number of deaths, we are ready to respond and serve families,” Justin Baxley, vice president for Hankins and Whittington Funeral Service said. 

In North Carolina there are 18,512 confirmed cases, 659 deaths, and 99 counties are affected by COVID-19, according to the NCDHHS. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although COVID-19 is a new disease, the virus likely spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. This type of spread is not a concern after death, according to the CDC. 

However, the CDC made it clear this is not an indication that people should consider touching someone who has died from COVID-19. Acts such as kissing, washing and shrouding should be avoided at all costs. 

”It’s hard enough to experience a death. It’s even more difficult when a family is not able to put the traditions in place that normally surround a death and bring comfort in that time,” Baxley said. 

According to the CDC, decedents can be buried, embalmed or cremated. Funerals and visitation services can also be held, but all funeral home workers must follow a routine infection prevention when handling a decedent.

”The biggest challenge is education. There’s a lot of fear surrounding what’s happening right now,” Baxley said. 

Baxley said although a person may not have passed from COVID-19, family and friends must still follow the procedures set in place by the state. 

”We’re seeing a significant increase in the number of families planning their funeral arrangements right now,” Baxley said. 

Counties with the highest number of cases include Mecklenburg County with 2,591 Wake County with 1,212 and Durham County with 986 cases. 


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