Joe Coffey owns and operates Andrychuk Funeral Home in Kamsack, as well as Christie’s Funeral Home in Yorkton and Sneath-Strilchuk in Roblin, with around 10 staff members.
“Since the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s understandable that everyone is a bit more on edge, and we are seeing heightened anxiety levels,” he said. “We are an essential service with a higher risk of exposure to the coronavirus, and I’m sure some of the staff would prefer to be working from home, but in our industry that’s just not possible. We are called on to be at the front lines and we are here to do our very best.”
Since social distancing has become mandated, Coffey says it has been slightly awkward to meet with families to do an initial consultation about how to carry out their wishes for their loved ones.
“We have to do everything by phone or email to maintain social distancing,” he said. “It requires extra planning.
“But this pandemic is not totally unexpected. Our industry has been preparing for such an emergency for a number of years and we feel we have a solid contingency plan in place should there be a spike in the curve. I believe we are fortunate so far as Saskatchewan and Manitoba have a fairly flat curve.”
Coffey says staff members are careful to maintain safe social distancing and wear the necessary PPE (personal protective equipment).
“Because the groups of grieving family members and friends are limited to 10, we have held services with rotating groups. As each group leaves, we disinfect the premises and allow the next group in. So far we have accommodated up to 50 grieving family members in this way, and of course, there is no extra charge, we just have to do the extra planning.
“We also livestream the service. Immediate family is in attendance, and everyone else can tune into the livestream. We have accommodated up to 250 people in this setting.”
Some families have opted to postpone the service until the pandemic passes, saying their facilities will allow these types of options, he continued.
“There is no formal family gatherings at this time, and that is difficult but understandably a necessity,” he said. “We still print up memorial folders and family members may distribute or mail these out. The obituaries are not impacted unless the service is delayed, and to avoid duplication, obituaries will be reserved until the service is held,” he concluded.