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President of Roanoke-based funeral service discusses COVID-related challenges

Published: Dec. 8, 2020 at 6:51 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - It’s not an easy topic to discuss, but it’s relevant and according to Sammy Oakey, very much real.

“If we could just see some improvement in the numbers, but when we come into work every day and we see one, two, or three new COVID-related cases that come in overnight, it just really sets us back as far as our hopes go,” said Oakey, president of Oakey’s funeral service.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Oakey’s has assisted with 104 funerals with the causes of death ruled or related to COVID.

“Nobody wants to come to a funeral home, but I think over the past few months what we’ve been working with as far as families, who have lost a loved one due to COVID, have been even more difficult if there is such a thing.”

It’s difficult for the families and for Oakey’s employees, and he wants that message to be known.

Oakey says he’s not huge on social media, but there have been times throughout the last nine months that he has turned to Twitter to express concerns.

Last week was one of those times.

“And I just put out a tweet to say how difficult this is for everyone who works at the funeral home, we might not be considered front line people. but we certainly do a lot with families and decedents who have had COVID, COVID-related deaths,” said Oakey

That includes full PPE when actively working with COVID at Oakey’s main location in downtown Roanoke. But According to Oakey, the protection is needed.

“We had a case last week at one of our branch chapels where someone came in who apparently had COVID. And even though they had a mask on, the minute I found that out, it was 8 p.m. I called the service that would go out and smog the affected areas of the chapel. Certainly $1,800 I didn’t plan on spending, but you can’t put a price on your staff’s safety and we certainly aren’t going to,” said Oakey.

A reality that marks this chapter in time, but one that nobody wants to see marked.

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