To try and limit the potential spread of the coronavirus, the Daviess County Health Department has issued new directives that will limit funerals and eliminate visitation in the county.

The directive from the health department calls for no visitations, and funerals will be limited to families only. The move is yet another attempt at social distancing to fight the possible spread of COVID-19.

“This is being done to stop the possible spread of the virus,” said Daviess County Public Health Nurse Kathy Sullender. “The things that happen at a visitation, the hugging, handshaking and holding, are the very things that can spread a virus. We understand that funerals are a difficult time, but this is about protecting the greater community.”

For funeral homes in the area the directive did not come as a surprise.

“We had thought some kind of restrictions might be coming,” said Andy Arvin, manager at Ed Lee Mortuary. “Things have just been changing so rapidly in connection with this virus. It has been changing day-by-day.”

“Monday morning, we were told to limit the number of people to 50,” said Jennifer Wheeler, funeral director at Gill Funeral Home. “Three hours later it was 10. Now it is just family.”

The restrictions have so far only been put in place in Daviess County. “Different counties are doing different things right now,” said Stewart Blake, owner of Blake and Wagler Funeral Homes with locations in Montgomery and Loogootee. “Martin County and Dubois County have not put on restrictions. We have encouraged the counties to go together on their decisions but so far they haven’t.”

It is not unusual in Daviess County for visitation events to last for hours, stretch outside of the funeral home and have lines around the block. The funerals themselves can also be large.

“Limiting the public to the services will upset people,” said Wheeler. “I think though with the severity of this virus that everyone will understand that this is about the safety of the community.”

“I think people understand why this is being done,” said Blake. “I just don’t know if they agree with it.”

Whether the public likes it or not, the funeral homes report that they are following the direction of the health department.

“This is what we have been instructed to do,” said Arvin. “This is not our choice. We understand what has to be done.”

“We know this is an inconvenience for the families at a very trying time,” said Emma Letterman, funeral director at Blake and Wagler. “This is being done to protect them and for the well-being of the community. This virus could be fatal if it is contracted.”

Mortuary workers are also facing some additional concerns because of the potential spread of the coronavirus.

“We are being extra cautious when we go to pick up a body,” said Arvin. “We don’t always know exactly what happened to that person. We were always cautious, but now it is wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands and disinfect, disinfect, disinfect.”

While many of the directives only closings and changes have come with end dates the ones to the funeral homes limiting services to family-only are until further notice.

“Our hope is this is resolved sooner than later,” said Blake.
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