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Saskatchewan funeral homes preparing for rise in demand, ask for vaccine priority amid COVID-19

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Saskatchewan funeral homes preparing for rise in demand, ask for vaccine priority amid COVID-19
WATCH: With increasing COVID-19 case numbers across Saskatchewan, funeral homes said they're ready for a surge in demand; but they’re also asking for help dealing with the deaths – Dec 15, 2020

With increasing COVID-19 case numbers across Saskatchewan, funeral homes said they’re ready for a surge in demand — but they’re also asking for help dealing with the deaths.

Funeral homes across the province have been gearing up, preparing for a rise in demand.

Read more: Saskatchewan nears 100 coronavirus-related deaths as recoveries surpass 8K

Read next: U.S. is mulling shift to annual COVID-19 boosters. What about Canada? 

It’s a grim prospect, but a reality funeral homes are prepared for, according to Jeff Weafer, chair of the Funeral and Cremation Services Council of Saskatchewan (FCSCS).

Weafer said death-care professionals have been doing what they can so funerals can continue as close to normal as possible.

“Making sure that there’s enough masks, enough hand sanitizer, enough safety measures in place. We’ve had time to work out a lot of those situations,” he said.

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Weafer also manages the Regina funeral home. He said the big challenge for many in his business is helping family members mourn amid-ever changing restrictions.

Read more: Coronavirus: Saskatchewan restricting indoor gatherings to immediate household members

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“Early on when there was limitations of 10 people, having the family say to me personally, ‘Jeff there’s 18 of us so who do I leave out? Which one of my brothers do I tell they can’t come to dad’s funeral?’ That’s tough,” he said.

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Services like live-streaming funerals, and using robots so people can attend from afar, have helped funeral homes adapt.

Read more: Robots and drive-thrus: How some funeral homes are holding services amid COVID-19

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Now, death-care professionals across Canada are calling to be a priority to get the vaccine. In Saskatchewan, the first doses of the vaccine were administered to some health-care workers Tuesday.

Weafer, who represents Saskatchewan nationally with the Funeral Services Association of Canada, calls death-care professionals this pandemic’s last responders.

“When people do pass away, funeral staff are going to come in direct contact,” said Weafer, adding staff have to go collect the body, which could take them into areas like long-term care homes.

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Read more: 1st doses of COVID-19 vaccine in Saskatchewan given to health-care workers

Read next: WHO to decide if COVID remains an emergency. What will this mean for Canada?

He said staff are also working with the family, and it can be hard to know if someone who was with their loved one before they died is infected.

“There’s 100 per cent chance that funeral professionals are going to be in direct contact with the virus,” Weafer said.

He said he would like to see those professionals vaccinated during Phase Two of the rollout.

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

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.

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. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

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For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan restricting indoor gatherings to immediate household members'
Saskatchewan restricting indoor gatherings to immediate household members

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