COVID-19 continues to impact funeral industry

COVID-19 pandemic still impacting funeral homes

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Funeral homes across the country are struggling to deal with the uptick in COVID-19 deaths.

3 On Your Side went to Mississippi’s oldest black funeral home to find out how they are coping and why they say the vaccine is needed more than ever.

Long hours and days at W. H. Jefferson Funeral Home in Vicksburg as the pandemic continues to rage on.

“We have to do things in a shorter time. For example: you have family members who can’t travel out of state. For instance, I have a young lady, who can’t make an arrangement for her mother who passed from COVID-19 because she has COVID-19,” said owner James Jefferson.

The oldest black funeral home in the state has also had the overwhelming task of adjusting to the spike in deaths and restrictions on funeral services.

“So, we are doing more graveside now, more cremation, and the city auditorium stays booked. I know they had four funerals this weekend.”

Owner James Jefferson says the funeral home has seen at least a 30 percent increase in services since the outbreak began last March. In fact, he recently purchased an extra refrigerator due to the uptick.

“Because of the death rate and the hospitals can’t hold nor are they willing to deal with the corona patients after death, so we had invested in the freezer. I have one here personally for the funeral home and I allowed the county to put one downstairs as well.”

Jefferson says while he’s pleased to hear that vaccine distribution is speeding up, he wants all funeral home employees to be offered the vaccine during Phase 1.

“We are just as susceptible as hospital workers, fire department personnel and ambulance personnel and even law-enforcement. As far as safety, I would love to have all my people vaccinated.”

And safety is what Jefferson and his team are focused on as they continue to work to serve grieving families during this pandemic.

“The whole process of being able to plan a funeral and conducting a funeral have changed, and I doubt if it’s ever going to go back to the same.”

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