Alabama funeral homes seeing upstick in services as COVID deaths rise


HOMEWOOD, Ala. (WIAT) — The impacts of the coronavirus pandemic often start with a positive test result. As the number of cases grows in Alabama, more of those positive cases result in death.

Local funeral homes are seeing an increase in services as Alabama has now surpassed 4,000 COVID-19 related deaths. Not only have funeral home jobs changed in accordance with CDC guidelines, but the workload has now increased.

At Ridout’s Valley Chapel in Homewood, the hospital or nursing home will notify them when a death is COVID-related. The funeral home director said he has seen roughly 10% more deaths because of the coronavirus.

“The number of services and the number of families that we’re serving have definitely increased,” Scott McBrayer, the funeral director, said. “Not just here, but I would suspect across the state of Alabama.”

McBrayer said many of these deaths come as a surprise to families, when a COVID-19 diagnosis takes a quick turn for the worst.

“Some of the deaths are very sudden where families are all of a sudden having to make funeral arrangements when they didn’t expect it three or four days ago,” he said.

Funeral home employees see the stark reality of the pandemic in the work they do each day. McBrayer said he and his employees learn not to take the job home with them, but this year has been particularly difficult.

“It’s hard, because it’s a constant,” said McBrayer. “It’s constantly on our minds, just like it is our healthcare providers and long-term care facilities.”

For the doctors that have been on the frontlines of COVID-19 patient care, they’re learning more about how to treat patients.

“We’re getting smarter, but COVID isn’t getting weaker,” said Dr. Amy Bentley Illescas. “We are doing something that’s working.”

Dr. Bentley Illescas said mask-wearing and social distancing does far more good than harm when it comes to fighting off the virus. As flu season begins, she encourages everyone to get their flu shot so that if one was to contract COVID-19, recovery wouldn’t be complicated with another virus.

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