Funeral directors push for more lenient gathering restrictions


LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Funeral directors testified before the Michigan Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee Thursday regarding gathering restrictions for funerals.

They say gathering limits don’t allow people to properly mourn and remember their loved ones who have died.

Some families say they still haven’t planned funerals because of the restrictions, while others are having to choose which of their family members can and cannot attend.

Under current Michigan’s pandemic restrictions, indoor gatherings at places outside of homes are limited to 25 people. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says they’re continuing to make decisions based on data like case counts and hospitalizations.

“Families who have spent their lives revolving traditions and holidays around a matriarch of the family … are now going to have her legacy remembered as fighting over who’s going to have that 25th seat in the funeral chapel,” Sarah Jensen-Vatter, owner of Lansing-area Palmer Bush Jensen Funeral Homes, testfied.

“I know in Grand Rapids, where I’m from, there have been many funerals that I’ve seen and heard about that people have taken measures to get a little more creative to make sure people have the opportunity to come in. They have them sign up for staggered visitation times and do things like that, and then provide time and space outside where there is more opportunity to be properly ventilated, weather permitting, but also time for them to be able to see those other people that they can’t gather with inside,” Sen. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, said during the hearing.

Some Senate leaders said they would like to see the Michigan funeral industry put together comprehensive COVID-19 action plan that they can present to the state health director to try to increase limits.

In Michigan, the seven-day average of coronavirus cases and positive test rates have both doubled in the last month. The positivity rate has risen above 8%. Public health officials say a rate below 3% shows community spread is controlled.

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