Funeral homes ask for smaller gatherings due to virus

  • Karl N. Flagg Serenity Memorial Chapel in Palatka is prepared to livestream services if needed to comply with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order of 10 or fewer people in a gathering.
    Karl N. Flagg Serenity Memorial Chapel in Palatka is prepared to livestream services if needed to comply with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order of 10 or fewer people in a gathering.
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Funeral homes in Putnam County are not only asking for smaller gatherings, but some are also live streaming services in the wake of coronavirus. 

Masters Funeral Home has the capability to livestream their services and the home is taking precautions amid the virus, Funeral Director Quincy Masters III said.

“We’re trying to ask everyone to practice social distancing (and) refrain from hugging, shaking hands, kissing,” Masters said. 

Public indoor funerals are not being held, but graveside services will continue at Masters. The funeral home will still do private services inside a church or the funeral home with 10 or fewer people, Masters said. The office is still open, but arrangements can also be made over the phone and online. 

Karl N. Flagg Serenity Memorial Chapel is operating under necessary precautions and President Karl Flagg said the home is prepared to use streaming services such as Zoom also. “We are empathetic to the families who, as a result of this pandemic, are stuck,” Flagg said. “We’re giving them the proper spiritual counseling (and) social counseling.”

He said funeral services, visitations and public services were modified to comply with state and federal guidelines. The home is also following the rule of 10 or fewer people at a service. 

“Social distancing is a real challenge,” Flagg said. “Who are the 10 and then have any of the 10 been exposed (to the virus)?”

With the virus, the service could only have a videographer and funeral director in attendance, he said. The home has proper accommodations in place to take care of a deceased loved one with disinfection, preservation and restoration processes if the person was exposed to coronavirus.

Flagg said there have been no current cases come to the funeral home. “We’re practicing appropriate precautions as if everyone has (the virus),” he said. 

Johnson-Overturf Funeral Home is also limiting inside services but keeping graveside services. 

Steve Overturf, co-owner and funeral director, said the home is keeping up to date with guidelines to keep the public and their employees safe. “(We’re) considering having a full service once the virus dies down,” he said. 

If a family wants a full service, 10 close family members are invited and the public can view the service through a livestream, but full services may be arranged at a later date to include more people. 

These funeral homes are still open amid the outbreak and can be reached by phone or in person, in most cases. 

Watts Funeral Home and Cremation Center is keeping its doors locked and monitoring the front door by camera for safety reasons. People who need to enter should sanitize their hands once inside to stop the virus from spreading, said Funeral Director Margaret Watts. 

“I meet with all the families and I have to make sure they're safeguarded,” Watts said. “We’re trying to keep exposure limited.”

 While they have not had to deal with large parties or other service complications, Watts said they will handle those issues when they arise. 

There have been no virus-related deaths in Putnam County and only two reported cases as of Monday evening. 

“We’re trying to carry out the wishes of our families to the best of our abilities with the constraints we’re under with the virus,” Masters said. “I encourage everyone to stay safe and healthy.”