KEY POINTS

  • A group of funeral home directors has asked president Donald Trump to consider them as 'critical workers'
  • National Funeral Directors Association director Christine Pepper said they should have similar access to the precautionary measures enjoyed by frontliners
  • She added that this has been practiced in 2009, during the H1N1 outbreak

The National Funeral Directors Association called on President Donald Trump to recognize funeral workers in a special way. They said that the workers should be designated “essential critical infrastructure workers” as the coronavirus continues to claim the lives of U.S. citizens.

Christine Pepper, the group’s CEO, wrote a letter on March 20 addressed to the president, according to NBC News. In it, she highlighted the importance of deathcare during such cases as a pandemic or, in current cases, an epidemic like COVID-19. She said the service of funeral homes was essential to help the nation “heal and recover.”

In light of the current situation, the group asked for more protection for their workers. On top of their list are protective equipment, exemptions from the rules imposed by the quarantine, and to be on a list of prioritized patients to be tested. Also included in the list was access to a vaccine when it becomes available.

She highlighted a precedent for the current situation: the 2009 H1N1 virus, where the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) designated “mortuary service providers” as critical workers.

It’s not as if they are not taking precautions, either. One prime example is the case of a Jamaican immigrant who lost her life due to a massive heart attack, WBAL TV News reported. However, funeral homes have already placed rules where gatherings of people are limited, making it difficult to hold funeral services.

The family had initially planned to have around 100 guests from different parts of the country, as well as those overseas. Due to the current situation and the state’s COVID-19 outbreak laws, the funeral home — in partnership with the church — had to re-size the guests down to 50.

Among other rules, the CDC also provided guidelines for the proper handling of those who died from the disease. These rules govern how to handle funerals during the pandemic and how to disinfect body bags, as well as precautions meant to be taken in the event that “splashing of fluids” cannot be avoided.

Mortuary employees wearing face masks wheel a coffin into the crematorium of La Almudena cemetery in Madrid during the funeral of a COVID-19 coronavirus victim Mortuary employees wearing face masks wheel a coffin into the crematorium of La Almudena cemetery in Madrid during the funeral of a COVID-19 coronavirus victim Photo: AFP / OSCAR DEL POZO