Coronavirus forces funerals to move outdoors, online

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As the death count rises, there’s one service growing more essential: funeral homes.

But traditional funerals with crowds of mourners packed inside a building can be breeding grounds for the coronavirus, which is why more funerals are happening outside.

Forrest City, Arkansas, funeral director Miles Kimble said graveside services account for almost all his funerals these days, including one held Saturday in Helena-West Helena.

“I maybe had 35 at the graveside service, opposed to where you would have normally had maybe 125 at a church or chapel service,” Kimble said.

Just this week, a Clarksdale pastor died from the coronavirus after possibly contracting it at a funeral service last month.

Tuesday, the City of West Memphis’ COVID-19 task force met with directors of the city’s three licensed funeral homes to discuss how they would operate during the pandemic.

Because indoor services are limited to only 10 people, most funeral homes have moved to graveside services.

“We understand when you lose a loved one, you want to pay your respects, say goodbye, but we don’t want to do it … [with] you saying goodbye, but then you setting up another five or six funerals the week after,” West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon said.

Kimble has taken safety one step further with virtual funeral services.

“Families are able to watch the service Facebook Live if they give us consent,” he said. “They’re able to view their loved one in a private setting that we have on webcasting where different family members can log in with a password.”

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