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How COVID-19 is posing 'so many challenges' for forgotten frontline workers

'They are putting their lives on the line every day'
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Posted at 7:25 PM, May 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-07 19:26:32-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- When life ends, work begins for the forgotten frontline workers at funeral homes as they care for the remains of people who lost their lives battling the coronavirus.

Funeral Director Daniel Woodfin with Bliley’s said colleagues who retrieve bodies put themselves at risk daily.

Daniel Woodfin
Daniel Woodfin

“What we need to do is treat it like the threat is still there," Woodfin said. "They are unsung heroes. They are there when we are called upon to serve a family. The restrictions that we’re under are unprecedented.”

The teams who visit morgues, hospitals and homes always wear protective equipment, including respirators.

“They are putting their lives on the line every day just like firefighters. Just like nurses,” Woodfin said.

Carey Bliley
Carey Bliley

Carey Bliley, a fourth-generation funeral director, said few events have affected his family’s 146-year-old business like coronavirus.

Gone are the large, traditional gatherings and services, but the mortuary is working with loved to create a dignified farewell.

“For families who have had a loved one die of COVID-19, it presents so many challenges,” Bliley said. “I can’t take away the importance of ritual. Ritual when someone dies is so important.”

Bliley's Funeral Home on Staples Mill Road
Bliley's Funeral Home on Staples Mill Road

Bliley said loved ones prohibited from being with the patient in their final hours could have lasting impacts on the living.

“But there is so much to be said for those physical and tangible sense of saying goodbyes," Bliley said. “It is so difficult for them to process their loss.”

Burying a family member at any time can be a heavy burden to bear. Funeral director Woodfin said COVID-19 can add another layer of distress.

“Nothing will take that pain away, but if I can make their experience just a little bit easier, then I’ve done a good job," Woodfin said.

Bliley’s Funeral Home is offering live-streamed services at their chapels, so loved ones can mourn at home while remaining safe.

Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email heroes@wtvr.com.

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