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Funeral Stocks in Focus as Coronavirus Tolls Death Knell

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The coronavirus pandemic has created a worldwide mayhem, with countless innocent victims falling prey to this contagious disease. To date, the United States alone has reported nearly 55,000 positive cases, with a death toll of 784. As more and more people are losing their battle to this deadly virus, mass funerals have become a common sight across the globe.

Responding to the gravity of the situation, governments are increasingly advocating safety measures for funerals to minimize the risk of exposure. This, in turn, has reshaped many aspects of one of the saddest moments in life, from the modalities of handling infected dead bodies to meeting the spiritual and emotional needs of those left behind. This has brought to notice the contribution of various funeral-related service stocks, who are working tirelessly for this noble social cause.

RIP

Funerals are largely associated with people gathering together to pay homage to the deceased, while consoling each other with hugs and kisses. However, the threat of the coronavirus infection has now pushed these traditions to the backbench, with various states even banning funerals and memorial services until the end of the month, likely extending it further to an indefinite period. This, in turn, has become all the more stressful for the close relatives and friends of the deceased, when they are dissuaded from paying their last respects.

In order to avert the threat of community transmission, local administration and healthcare officials have issued strict advisories to abstain from large social gatherings through social distancing. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, social distancing refers to “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.” Funeral services are the latest and potentially the most heartbreaking to join this restriction list.

Funeral Services Reshaped

Funeral homes are imparting rigorous training methods for administering universal precautions while handling the dead bodies to reduce the spread of the infection. Support staffs are even being advised to use double bags for the disposal of bodies while putting surgical masks on the deceased to trap any residual air expelled from the lungs and using face shields. If funeral services are at all held, mourners (not more than 10 in number) are asked to stand six feet apart with the priests and other clergy holding their sessions in brief, restricting the entire program to a bare minimum time span.  

The entire logistics for funeral planning is now being completed over phone or video chats due to state lockdowns. This is where firms like Carriage Services, Inc. (CSV - Free Report) , Matthews International Corporation (MATW - Free Report) and Service Corporation International (SCI - Free Report) come into play with their profound experience and expertise in this field.

Pro-Active Steps

Some families are even planning to hold memorial events in the next few months when the situation stabilizes and resumes to normal. Some others are opting for an immediate approach to reach out to near and dear ones by either using a teleconferencing software or Facebook, Inc. (FB - Free Report) to livestream the ceremony.

Some congregants and places of worship are also employing innovative strategies to adapt to the situation without hurting religious sentiments. For example, for in-person attendance, religious communities are no longer offering wine at communion, while switching from challah loaves to rolls to avoid sharing and tearing the bread. Prayer books are even replaced with xeroxed hymn sheets, while Muslims at the Islamic Center of Southern California have been advised to refrain from embracing or kissing each other on the cheek. They are instead recommended to either place a hand over their hearts or offer a respectful nod or smile.

Moving Forward

Such strategies seem to be the need of the hour to counter this devastating menace. John Wenig, a spokesman for the National Funeral Directors Association and owner of several funeral homes in Sheboygan Falls, WI, observed, "The coronavirus is more mental than it is actual in terms of how we care for that body. We're simply more aware. It's a sobering thing for everyone." Rightly so, the funeral stocks are participating in whatever way they can to share the grief in these testing times.

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