By Lethbridge Herald on March 17, 2020.
Following the best advice of Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, funeral homes across the province are only providing funeral services for gatherings of 50 or fewer people to lessen the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Chris Martin Jong, general manager Martin Bros. Funeral Chapels and vice-president of the Alberta Funeral Service Association, says funeral homes are trying to find the best balance between allowing family members to grieve their loved ones and keep their public health risks low.
“It’s a fundamental need to get everybody together to grieve and mourn together,” he says, “however, we are still allowing that to happen in a smaller capacity. Following what the Chief Medical Officer of Health has said, we’re currently suggesting private, family services of up to 50 people while accommodating appropriate social distancing. We are also going to use live-streaming broadcast systems as much as possible. So maybe there’s a situation where there is a private family service at a funeral home, but then we are able to stream it to whoever would like to watch it from home.”
Additionally the Alberta Funeral Service Association has adopted guidelines which will comply with all local municipal restrictions as the outbreak continues and will be banning the provision of food and beverages as part of the funeral services.
Jong recognizes these changes will be difficult for some, and says some families have opted to postpone public services while going ahead with burial or cremation until the medical crisis has passed — a crisis unprecedented in his company’s recent experience.
“It’s a challenge we haven’t seen globally in recent times like this,” he acknowledges, “where everybody has to be involved in shutting down and putting these social distancing practices into place on such a large scale.”
Jong feels once families have adjusted to the new normal COVID-19 has brought, they will still have a chance to mourn and say farewell in a way which helps ease their grief and sorrow.
“You can still have a funeral,” he says. “It’s just not going to be a public event like it was before with 300 to 400 people there.”
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