Mississippi funeral homes take precautions after attendee infects 21 at funeral service


HERNANDO, Miss. — Health officials said 21 people were infected with coronavirus while attending a funeral in northeast Mississippi.

The case is putting other funeral homes in the Mid-South on alert as many prepare for weekend services.

Despite coronavirus fears, Hernando Funeral Home has been averaging about 15 funerals per month. They’re largely relying on people to use good judgement like not attending if they’re sick.

“What we’ve found is the public is pretty much policing themselves,” said Brent Taylor, owner of Brentwood Funeral Services, which houses Hernando Funeral Home. “Those who are part of the vulnerable population, they know they’re part of the vulnerable population. They’re staying away from the funerals.”

Health officials said someone didn’t follow that advice last week. The person showed up to a different funeral at an unspecified location in northeast Mississippi with COVID-19 symptoms.

That person ended up giving it to 21 others.

“There were not only people from throughout the area, but people from out of state who came in,” said Dr. Thomas Dobbs with the Mississippi State Department of Health.

After weeks of graveside services and 10-person limits on chapel services, on May 1st, Taylor said he began resuming regular services, but not without some restrictions.

“We’re going to let the family invite whomever they would like, but once they come into the funeral home, they have to maintain proper social distancing, and once the chapel reaches capacity, which is about half capacity, then at that point we’ll have to turn people away,” Taylor said.

Getwell Church said they haven’t had any funerals since the start of the pandemic, but that changes this weekend.

They’re planning a service at their Hernando campus with “a small number of attendees and a brief service length.” They said they’ve already increased cleaning and sanitizing standards.

At Hernando Funeral Home, the safety standard is never far from anyone’s mind.

In March, WREG reported on how a Clarksdale pastor became infected with COVID-19 while attending a funeral. He later died but not before possibly exposing hundreds of mourners at a different funeral.

It goes to show how quickly this can spread… if you’re sick, stay home.

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