CLEVELAND (WJW) — Ohio’s funeral home workers are sounding the alarm and pleading with state leaders to put them on the coronavirus vaccination list.
According to Ohio’s Funeral Directors Association, which represents 85% of funeral homes across the state, many are at or near their breaking point because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Funeral home workers are completely exhausted, having to delay decedent services and working with a reduced staff,” said Melissa Sullivan, OFDA Executive Director.
The surge in COVID-19 deaths has more than doubled the typical call volume at both large and small nursing homes.
While the staff is continually exposed to the virus going to hospitals, nursing homes, and private residences.
“There are multiple touch points where they have the opportunity for exposure,” said Sullivan, “Then back at the funeral home preparing the individual for their services, meeting with the family and even if it’s a small service they have those additional individuals inside their funeral homes.”
Some funeral homes are currently working with only 25% of their staffing due to infections and quarantining.
Jim Busch, President of Busch Funeral Homes said, “Our staff has been absolutely amazing just sacrificial what they’ve done, and continue to do and that’s why I’m so concerned about getting on a faster track for the vaccine so we can protect our staff so we can be here to serve these great communities that we’re in.”
Busch believes every family deserve the ability to properly say goodbye to their loved one in fact their mantra is “Celebrating Life Safely”.
However, he says they too are exhausted and hoping the state will allow them to get vaccinated.
“It would mean so much to our staff so much to our families of our staff,” said Busch, “Protecting our families so we can continue to serve families.”
The OFDA has been communicating with both the Ohio Department of Health and Governor’s Administration.
Sullivan points out that the CDC’s Advisory Council on Immunization Practices recommends “death care workers” get vaccinated in Phase 1A.
She says dozens of states have prioritized them and hope Ohio will too before it’s too late.
She says, the funeral service workforce was already limited before the pandemic and there is no contingency plan to add additional licensees.
“We’re hopeful that they will recognize this small critical population and the need to keep them healthy so we can continue serving families,” said Sullivan.