With a spike in COVID-19 deaths in Lawrence County in recent months, funeral homes are battling an increase in services while also trying to control the spread of the virus.

Lawrence County reported a combined 88 coronavirus-related deaths in the final months of 2020 — 57 in December and 31 in November — and 131 since March. Despite state and federal guidelines and restrictions on gatherings, memorial services for the deceased continued.

“It’s a difficult time for a lot of people, not only because they’ve lost a loved one, but because of the different regulations,” said Jordan Flaim, funeral director for R. Cunningham Funeral Home and Crematory, Inc. “We’re willing to adapt and do our best to help the public but also keep everyone safe because safety and health is a priority right now.”

Flaim estimated a 25 percent increase in overall deaths in comparison to November and December 2019. He reported hosting more than 10 coronavirus-related funerals.

Meanwhile, Vince Fuleno, the funeral director for Ed and Don DeCarbo Funeral Home, too saw an increase in services.

He concluded his funeral home saw an increase of about 15 services in November in comparison to the previous November. He also reported hosting upwards of 19 coronavirus-related funerals.

“November was very busy,” Fuleno said.

Both funeral homes use universal protective and cleaning precautions when dealing with both COVID-19-related and other deaths.

“With COVID we have taken precautions to the next level in terms of different disinfecting techniques just to protect our staff, ourselves, the families we serve. We are taking it very seriously.”

Flaim bought two industrial foggers to disinfect the building bi-weekly as well several air purifiers.

Most services, Fuleno and Flaim explained, are private with some families opting to hold off on services and celebrations until restrictions ease.

“It’s not the way we want to serve our families but we really have no choice right now with the way things are going," Fuleno said.


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Maria Basileo covers the City of New Castle's government, Act 47 and Union and Shenango school boards. Email her at mbasileo@ncnewsonline.com.

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