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Guy & Allen Funeral Directors adjusts during pandemic

Work day for essential businesses is complex and stressful

Contributed By The 411 News

A day after Governor Eric Holcomb issued a stay-at-home order for Indiana, questions poured into the Critical Industries Hotline set up by the state to provide answers to businesses and industries affected by the order. Stay-at-home meant some businesses would have to close while letting others remain open.

Callers swamped the hotline Tuesday, shutting it down temporarily.

The order is critical but necessary, the governor said, though it means separating employees and employers from their incomes. The price Indiana and other states are paying to limit the spread of the coronavirus is hitting the nation in its pocketbook as the public health crisis has turned into an economic one.

The stay-at-home order defined essential businesses that will remain open and non-essential ones which will have to close. Wednesday morning’s empty parking lots at stores and shopping malls, and sparse vehicle traffic was immediate evidence.

In Merrillville, along U.S. 30 near Broadway, Athletico Physical Therapy and Planet Fitness are next door neighbors. The neon sign said open at Athletico; Planet Fitness was dark. Fitness and exercise gyms, spas, salons, barber shops, tattoo parlors, and similar facilities are not included in Healthcare and Public Health Operations, which the order defines as essential businesses.

Although they’re open, the work day under the order for essential business is nothing to brag about. The parking spaces in front of Athletico were empty.

Catch-22, next door to Athletico, had sent a worker with his sign to U.S. 30, hopefully to attract customers from the passing drivers. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the restaurant would have been busy with shoppers and workers from area businesses.

AAble 2 Stow It Storage and U-Haul in Gary is an essential vehicle rental business.

Owner Ben Tyler has placed on temporary layoff three employees due to the crisis. “My truck rental is down by half,” Tyler said. “And I can’t refuse my storage customers who want to remove or bring in items. We have to be here.”

The risk of infection to several of his workers who are diabetic does worry him. Their system to avoid infection is to limit as much personal contact with customers as they can. Customers aren’t allowed in the office area. Debit and credit cards help ease the exchange of payments, especially when taken by phone. “We put the leases in an envelope the customers can pick up themselves in the bay areas,” Tyler said.

But cash payments require personal contact. “We have to use gloves since we don’t know where the money has been,” Tyler said.

Studies have shown that the virus can last on surfaces from hours to days. That’s why it’s important to wash hands with soap and water several times daily, and wipe surface areas like counters, door knobs, and hand rails.

At Guy & Allen Funeral Directors, this essential business is working under restrictions of the governor’s social distancing order limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people. In those gatherings, people must maintain a 6-foot distance. Social distancing does not apply to families and members of a household.

Funeral director Carmelita Perry said they had recently canceled limousine service for funerals. “We can’t risk our driver getting infected in a limousine that seats 8 other people. Limousines don’t allow that type of separation.”

Now, families are asked to provide their own transportation.

One family became upset, balking at not having a limousine. Perry said one of the family members called her back to apologize, saying they understood.

Visitations, family hours and funerals have to comply with the limitations on social gatherings. Families are now scheduling slots for groups of 10 and less to visit and attend services.

Perry said funeral homes have to comply with new guidelines cemeteries have set up due to the virus. “Some cemeteries allow only the deceased in. Some want only the body and funeral director. Others are complying with the 10-person limit.”

“We’ve already been told when the weather gets warmer, cemeteries will not furnish chairs and tents because of the cleaning they will require,” Perry said.

Next door neighbors. The neon sign said open at Athletico; Planet Fitness was dark. Fitness and exercise gyms were not defined as essential businesses for Indiana’s Stay-at-Home order.

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