N.S. funeral homes prepare for potential COVID-19-related deaths

Click to play video: 'How funeral homes are adapting to support grieving families during the COVID-19 crisis'
How funeral homes are adapting to support grieving families during the COVID-19 crisis
As COVID-19 continues to spread and affect so many lives, it has become especially difficult for grieving families who are discouraged from gathering for funeral services. Amanda Jelowicki reports on how the funeral industry is adapting to social distancing. – Mar 22, 2020

There have yet to be any deaths in Nova Scotia related to COVID-19, but in the event of one, funeral homes want to be prepared.

Patrick Curry is the president of the Funeral Service Association of Nova Scotia, which represents roughly 40 funeral homes and 80 individual members across the province.

Curry said they’ve been sending information to their members about possible concerns and proper handling.

“There are steps that we can take to safely handle someone who has passed away with COVID-19. That involves, obviously, proper disinfection, creating a barrier between the person that passed away and the staff, personal protective equipment, of course, is a very big component to that as well,” said Curry.

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“Funeral directors are as susceptible to the virus as any other person, and if we start becoming sick and we can’t perform our job – I mean, we as a profession have a very important role in the public health dynamic as well.”

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Curry said funeral homes usually have gloves, masks and face shields on hand, but there is some concern in the industry about supply.

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“Not only for our members, but really funeral professionals right across the country. I’ve been having weekly meetings with my counterparts, with the associations in all the other provinces, and the common thread is funeral homes concern about having access to personal protective equipment.”

Curry said he’s been having ongoing meetings with the Department of Health and Wellness and Nova Scotia’s medical examiner to ensure funeral homes are kept in the loop.

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Halifax call centre employee expresses concern over COVID-19 case

“As this pandemic starts running its course, one of the things that we want to ensure is that we will have access to gloves, masks, gowns, what have you, just as the other frontline professions will have,” said Curry.

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“Those conversations are ongoing, and they’ve been really receptive to our point of view so far, so I’m really hopeful that we are continued to be kept in that conversation.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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