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Austin funeral homes continue to adapt to the pandemic, and the future

Even though the state's mask mandate was lifted as well as business restrictions, some funeral homes in Austin are working to keep services as safe as possible.

PFLUGERVILLE, Texas — Funeral homes have been especially busy during the pandemic, as they've had to adapt to safety measures to help loved ones say goodbye in safe and socially distant ways. 

Stories were reported during some of the peaks of the pandemic where large funeral gatherings led to the spread of COVID-19. 

In Central Texas, many funeral homes had to get creative with their services; whether that meant holding a service over Facebook Live, Zoom or even a radio transmitter.

Even though the State has lifted capacity restrictions as well as the statewide mask mandate, some local funeral homes say not much has changed just yet with their services. 

"All of our staff are wearing masks. We're all practicing social distancing. Nothing has changed for us there whatsoever," said Rick Davis, the general manager of the Cook-Walden/Capital Parks Funeral Home and Cemetery in Pflugerville. "We are continuing to do as many virtual arrangements, in other words, arrangements through WebEx or some of these other online opportunities, which in many ways has actually served our families even better."

He adds they have expanded capacity for their funeral services, but work with the families to ensure safety. 

"We do have a little bit more flexibility for our families in terms of the size of the groups that can come together, and we really work closely and collaborate with our families to see what they are most comfortable with," he said. "So we still are doing the social distancing. Again, we're all wearing masks. But yes, we are able to to expand the size of the groups a little bit so long as they're keeping their keeping proper distances."

Credit: Luis de Leon
Cook-Walden/Capital Parks Funeral Home and Cemetery in Pflugerville.

The cemetery activated a radio transmitter last year in order to let families hold funeral services in a sort of drive-in setting. Once the transmitter is setup, you can flip to a radio station in your car, and the audio of the service can be heard. 

Davis said that particular service hasn't been used much recently, but says other services have. 

"There's been a definite increase in the number of people that wish to use systems, portable portable speaker systems and things like that, to help get the message or get the signal out a little further. So there's been a slight change there," he said. 

Overall, he said most families still prefer to have smaller gatherings for the time being. 

"What we found is that that most families are really not ready for that. Most families really are more comfortable keeping up to smaller groups, but maybe not as small as what they were forced to do before," he said. "Using these tools and these online meeting tools that families from throughout the world can all be participating in the arrangement process, I don't see that changing and that is not going to go away when all of this is gone ... when everything else is back to what we consider normal. I still think that that's going to be something many families are going to really prefer to do. It serves them well."

Austin Natural Funerals, which also enacted a long list of safety measures as well as online services, told KVUE this week it is still recommending safety measures for the families it serves. 

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