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Coroner, funeral homes in need of resources

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency this week was sending a refrigerated storage trailer for the dead to the city as cases of COVID-19 continued to surge.

By Christmas Eve, more than 100 people from Lycoming County had died.

Imagine being on the receiving end. How do those who must deal with the aftermath keep up with it all?

Even before the COVID-19 public health crisis began, the Lycoming County Coroner’s Office was facing a shortage of space.

In October, County Coroner Charles E. Kiessling Jr. reported being near capacity for morgue space due to rising deaths for not only the coronavirus but also drug overdoses and suicides. That was well before the current surge that has caused coronavirus deaths to go up more than two and a half times in less than a month.

Besides a shortage of space, proper decontamination was of chief concern, with coroner staff working in facilities that are not designed for what they have been facing.

Also facing exposure are those operating and working in funeral homes. We learned this past week that personal protective equipment in those facilities is in short supply, putting another group of essential workers at risk.

“I’m downright scared,” one such employee told the Sun-Gazette.

Making the matter worse is a steep increase in the cost. A box of gloves that used to cost $10, for instance, is now $20 to $30.

Sounds like price gouging, or is it the result of demand coupled with supply chain issues?

Whatever the reason, this is unthinkable at a time when these front-line workers are in high demand.

A short-term solution for the coroner’s facility may not be viable, though we encourage our county commissioners to make this a top priority in 2021.

In the meantime, it would be a blessing for some funding to open up for affordable personal protective equipment for our funeral home workers.

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