“We’re getting more cremations with no kind of service at this point”: Lake City funeral home keeps up with demand of Delta variant

Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 4:45 PM EDT
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LAKE CITY, Fla. (WCJB) - Staff at Gateway-Forest Lawn Funeral Home are feeling the impact of the Delta variant both inside the home and in their own lives.

“This time it’s just much quicker, and just more people faster,” said Amy Guerry, the owner of the funeral home.

Guerry said things were starting to ease up before the Delta variant hit, but now they’re using some of the same strategies they used in spring of 2020.

“It is just so heart sickening to see all of these families. You’re just going from one, right to the other.”

She said in the past month, more families have started turning away from traditional funeral services to prevent spreading the virus.

“We’re definitely getting more cremations with no kind of service at this point,” Guerry said.

Funeral director Brad Wheeler said he semi-retired 12 years ago, but because of the demand, he’s now back full-time.

He said seeing the impact of COVID-19 first-hand has changed his outlook on the vaccine.

“After a week here, and we had several deaths that people were my age, that’s what changed my mind,” said Wheeler. “I decided over that weekend that I was going to do it. I made my decision on a Sunday and I went Monday and got my vaccination.”

Staff members said the increase of COVID-19 deaths has not only changed their operations, but it’s changed the way family members have to say goodbye to their loved ones.

“I think the grieving process has changed somewhat because of the pandemic, and it has installed more of a value in the family to honor their loved one the best that they can during this time,” said JD Tyre, the general manager.

He said the amount of time he spends at the funeral home has drastically increased.

While the staff is very busy, Tyre said they have been able to handle the influx of more bodies than usual.

Staff said taking safety precautions has now become second-nature.

“We do wear our masks, we do make sure we have hand sanitizer available, we do offer that to our clients when they’re coming in,” Tyre said.

Funeral staff said they have directed people to FEMA’s funeral assistance program. Families in need of financial help to cover the cost of a COVID-19 related funeral can apply.

To learn more about the program click here.

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