Ohio’s ‘last’ responders struggle to find needed personal protective equipment

Updated: May. 14, 2020 at 5:21 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The death care industry is struggling to find needed equipment during the coronavirus crisis.

Stowder’s Funeral Home has been serving the families of Cleveland since 1951.

Like many funeral homes across the country, COVID-19 has forced Stowder’s to change its procedures.

Signs are posted in the lobby to remind the grief stricken to practice social distancing, and face masks are a necessity.

The danger of the job is often unknown to the public.

“You don’t think about the last responders, the last ones who get to take the deceased into our care,” said Tyra Turk, a licensed funeral director.

Caring for the deceased brings with it the unknown. “Every person is assumed to be infectious,” said Gary Burr, president of the Ohio Funeral Directors Association. “Whether picked up from a home, nursing home or hospital you need to suspect everyone is infectious and they have to be treated that way.”

Safety measures are in place to keep employees safe, but the needed personal protective equipment is in short supply.

When it can be purchased, Stowder says the prices are much higher due to the demand.

Unlike for first responders, donations haven’t been flowing to the last responders.

“We are the unseen heroes and we are just as important as first responders,” said Turk.

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