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Delaware funeral homes limit guests

Andre Lamar * Delaware
andre.lamar@doverpost.com
Dover Post

Funeral services are still being held during the state’s stay-at-home order. But funeral homes are operating under new guidelines to better help ensure the safety of employees and the families they’re serving.

On April 1, Gov. John Carney declared no more than 10 people can attend funeral services through May 15, due to the coronavirus, or until the public health threat has been eliminated.

Bennie Smith, owner of Bennie Smith Funeral Home (which has locations in Dover, Milford, Millsboro, Seaford and in Maryland and Virginia), said it’s important for guests to practice social distancing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends staying at least six feet apart.

“We’re taking every precaution we can,” Smith said. “We try to recommend to people that there’s no handshaking and keeping your distance is very, very important. We highly recommend that there’s no touching of the remains.”

Eugene Melvin, funeral director at Melvin Funeral Home in Harrington, said the virus has forced him to consider safer ways he can run his family’s business.

“We are trying to move more towards conferencing on the phone when possible, and limiting exposure and adhering to social distancing,” he said. 

“If possible, and if the families want to, we can live stream or record a funeral service or just plan on a memorial service at a later date. Most families are opting for a graveside service with just immediate family,” Melvin added. 

To date, 14 Delawareans have died due to the coronavirus, according to the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services.

At this time, the CDC has stated, “There is currently no known risk associated with being in the same room at a funeral or visitation service with the body of someone who died of COVID-19.” However, the CDC also notes, “People should consider not touching the body of someone who has died of COVID-19.”

Smith, who has the most independently-owned funeral homes in the state, said business has been fine for him.

Melvin said he’s been affected “like every other business, [but] probably not as much as those that are forced to shut down.”

Ross Trader, owner of Trader Funeral Home in Dover, said his plan is to still honor the families he’s serving in a major way, under the new guidelines.

“Our experienced staff will work closely with each family to develop and implement a funeral service plan that will adhere to the latest guidelines, while continuing to uphold the highest levels of compassion, integrity and excellence in service,” Trader said.

Harrington funeral director Melvin is remaining optimistic that this storm will pass soon. 

“Hopefully, things will turn back to normal in a short time. Safety and protection is the number one priority right now,” Melvin said.