Funerals in the time of COVID-19

MOUNT DESERT — In closeness, there is comfort. 

Funerals are when people gather to mourn and to comfort one another. They hold hands; they hug. With arms around shoulders, they weep together, remember together and, sometimes, laugh together. 

But that isn’t happening now. With the threat of the coronavirus, those who have lost family members or friends must keep their distance. 

Since Gov. Janet Mills issued an executive order March 18 prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people, funeral homes have been holding no public services, only services for small groups of family members. But under the governor’s executive order of March 31, even small, private funerals are strongly discouraged. 

“It’s very hard on families because they’re not able to have the community help them through the grieving process,” said Lauri Fernald, co-owner of Jordan-Fernald Funeral Homes in Somesville and Ellsworth.  

“When the community is able to gather around and people can express their condolences, that really supports families.” 

Fernald said her funeral homes have webcasted a few funerals and have held private viewings for immediate family members. 

“But it’s almost like that’s not enough, just having a few family members come and see the person,” she said. It doesn’t help them celebrate the life in the way they wanted to.” 

Fernald said burials are also on hold until the shelter-in-place order has been lifted. 

When someone dies, family members usually like to go to a funeral home to make the funeral arrangements in person. But that isn’t happening now, either. 

“But we always have been able to make arrangements online, and as this [virus] becomes more prevalent in our community, we will be using that more,” Fernald said. 

There are standard safety precautions that funeral home employees take when handling or working around a body. 

“But now we are stepping that up more,” Fernald said. “We are taking the same precautions that they are in the health field, with the masks and gloves and suits and all of that. And we are specifically asking people if (the deceased) died of a communicable diseasebecause this one is so very contagious.” 

Fernald said Jordan-Fernald is following all the guidelines and recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the National Funeral Directors Association in trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 



Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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