Morticians in times of corona: the danger does not end with death

Morticians in times of corona: the danger does not end with death

With their dark signal red color, the A4-sized sheets cry out for attention. With one word, the special nature of the body name in the coffins is evident: "infectious" is printed in bold letters across the page. Four refrigerated cells in the basement of the mortuary at the coburg cemetery are marked and reserved for bodies who have died from or with covid-19.

Infectious body names

For morticians and cemetery administration staff, dealing with dead bodies, including those with surnames that pose a risk of infection, is nothing new. But with the covid 19 pandemic, "the number of infectious cadavers and the effort required have of course risen sharply", states tobias debudey.

According to the words of the head of the cemetery and burial department at the coburg green spaces office, corpses from the counties of kronach, coburg, lichtenfels, kulmbach and also bamberg are also brought to the crematorium in the city of coburg for cremation.

On the death certificates, the doctors mark the warnings to indicate whether there is a risk of infection from the corpse. For some weeks now, handwritten notes have been added to indicate whether a covid 19 infection was involved. In a bodybag, infectious corpses are collected by the morticians. "Disinfectants and protective clothing are ubiquitous and are used more than before", knows master funeral director gabriele kahl. Instead of a body bag, the Bavarian burial ordinance stipulates that "the body must be immediately wrapped in a cloth soaked in a suitable disinfectant or in another equally suitable manner". Transfers from abroad are possible with appropriate precautions.

If a corpse poses a risk of infection, it is forbidden to say goodbye in an open coffin. "In order to dress or shave a deceased person, the body must be moved and repositioned." then gases could escape from the body that can spread the coronavirus.

Organizing counseling differently

Advice for the bereaved is increasingly given over the phone, and formalities are handled by e-mail wherever possible. A protective glass on gabriele kahl’s desk and masks make personal consultations possible. In order to communicate sympathy, at least virtually, the funeral homes have set up memorial pages on their websites.

"I am very happy about the specifications made by the federal and state governments", according to the funeral director. The images from italy or the united states, where cadaveric names were transported away in military trucks or temporarily stored in refrigerated trucks, shocked you. "This is not a dignified farewell." the individual funeral homes would assist each other, if necessary, to avoid just such scenarios.

In the times of the covid 19 pandemic, funeral rituals and work procedures have changed. Cemetery staff avoid moving coffins with an infectious body more than absolutely necessary. They are equipped with gloves, masks and protective clothing. The coffins are sprayed with disinfectant solutions, and the trolleys are treated in the same way after each use. "More hygiene is needed than usual", says tobias debudey.

Funeral services at the cemetery are currently only held outdoors and in the closest family circle. Maximum. "We meet with a great deal of understanding from the bereaved, although the grief over the loss of a loved one is accompanied by the sadness over the current restrictions", according tobias debudey. The blessing hall at the cemetery, previously closed due to corona, has been available for use again for a few days now. However, the doors must remain open, and only ten to fifteen people can attend. After corona, a farewell ceremony with a larger mourning congregation could be held, gabriele kahl notes.

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