MARION COUNTY, Fla. – A group made up of roughly 30 churches and six funeral homes throughout Marion County have decided not to hold funerals indoors for the remainder of the year.
Snow is the owner of Snow’s Funeral Ministry in Ocala. He said he’s been holding 10 to 20 funerals a month, more than the typical business. He said most of the deaths are COVID-related.
“We’ve been extremely busy. It’s been hard to keep up with the rate of death here in Marion County,” Snow said.
The latest numbers from the state health department show Marion County at a 23.7% positivity rate for new cases as of Sept. 3. That’s higher than the state positivity rate of 15.2% for new cases.
After hearing that many funeral homes like Snow’s are overwhelmed with funerals related to COVID deaths, local pastors held a conference call with funeral home directors and medical professionals.
“It really was the fact that we were seeing and hearing of our funeral directors and their teams contracting COVID. We started seeing and hearing more pastors contracting the virus, so we started asking the question, where are we seeing and why we are seeing numbers go up? We followed the trail back to funerals,” Reverend Bishop Stockton III said.
The group agreed to a moratorium effective immediately. No indoor funerals. Greater New Hope Church in Silver Springs Shore and New Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Ocala are two of about 30 churches throughout Marion County participating in the moratorium. Six Marion County funeral homes are also involved.
“We noticed we are spending more time in funerals and noticing that they’re not in the safest environment,” Pastor Eric Cummings said. “We have a part to play in mitigating these numbers. The church has to lead from the front, and this was an opportunity for us to step out on faith and do what he have to do.”
Those Marion County pastors say they will continue to be community leaders outside of the church. Earlier this year, they partnered with several other churches to hold vaccination events, providing free transportation to places of worship to get the shot.
The pastors and funeral directors participating in the moratorium hope more churches and funeral homes will get on board with their indoor funeral moratorium to help prevent the further spread of the virus.
Snow said there has been minimal pushback from families planning funeral services. As far as business goes, Snow said he doesn’t mind if the families decide to go somewhere else to do business because of the indoor funeral moratorium.
“As a licensed funeral director, my concern is for the safety of the community. It’s not about money with me. Losing business is a sacrifice I’m willing to make,” Snow said.
The moratorium is expected to last until Jan. 1, 2022, unless the positivity rate sees a significant decrease, according to Cummings.