Funeral directors in Oklahoma are now included with health care providers and first responders as workers who should have access to the state’s stockpile of personal protective equipment, or PPE, during the coronavirus pandemic.
Oklahoma Funeral Board President Chad Vice says finding PPE has been difficult, if not impossible, since the outbreak started.
"We don’t have an abundance of supply, so we have to be really careful in ordering exactly what we need," Vice said. "But everything from N95 masks to face shield to gowns — in large, extra large, XXL — are available to us now."
A new public health order also requires funeral directors be notified when they are taking the body of someone with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Funeral directors are at risk of exposure not only from the deceased, but also from their families who are at the death or come to make funeral arrangements, Vice said.
"We have 701 licensed and practicing funeral directors in the state currently caring for 38,000 deaths," Vice said. "We can’t afford for a third of our team to go down with COVID-19."
Before winning access to the state stockpile, the Oklahoma Funeral Directors Association successfully obtained 10-thousand N-95 masks for its members, which they say have already run out.