The city of Tahlequah stands ready to provide additional resources to a local funeral home after a recent spike in deaths.
Tahlequah Mayor Sue Catron said the Crisis Task Force Committee began discussing end-of-life concerns pertaining to COVID-19 in early April.
“We asked [Green Country Funeral Home owner] Mr. [David] Dick to help us understand current capacity and industry specific issues that might impact our community, if we were not able to contain the virus,” said Catron. “One concern identified was that our funeral homes each have equipment and staff to address normal circumstances, but very limited ability to expand that capacity.”
The committee identified possible sources for a refrigerated truck, with members expressing the hope they'd never reach the point of needing it.
According to Catron, Dick contacted her at the end of 2020 and informed her the demand on funeral homes had increased significantly.
“While he did not feel that additional storage capacity was needed at the moment, if the trend continued as it had in December, we would shortly need that resource. He asked that we confirm that the truck identified in April was still available,” said Catron.
All three Cherokee County funeral homes indicated their December numbers were substantially higher than for the same period last year.
“A member of the Crisis Task Force contacted the resource identified earlier in the year, but their equipment was no longer available,” said Catron. “Fortunately, Mr. Dick has been able to acquire the equipment needed to ensure that the potential crisis is averted for now.”
Dick confirmed that Green Country Funeral Home has plenty of refrigeration to handle its needs.
“We are also open to our competitors utilizing our refrigeration as they may become overwhelmed,” said Dick. “We take care of any family who has a need for death care.”
The Tahlequah City Cemetery also saw an increase in the number of burials at the end of 2020.
The mayor said cemetery is not currently at risk of being overwhelmed, as it has the space and staff to provide to the community.
“Our hope is that distribution of the vaccine continues rapidly and the number of positive cases within Cherokee County begins to drop quickly,” said Catron. “If that happens, we would be very pleased to have prepared for the worst-case scenario and not had to use the equipment available.”