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Belmont Cragin, Hermosa

Chicago Funeral Homes Limiting Crowds At Services Because Of Coronavirus

Some funeral homes are limiting wakes and funeral to family only and some are livestreaming services.

Leak and Sons Funeral Home at 7838 S. Cottage Grove.
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BELMONT CRAGIN — Chicago families who lose a loved one during this unprecedented time may have to limit how many people can pay their respects at wakes and funerals in light of the steps being taken to limit the spread of coronavirus. 

On its website, the Illinois Funeral Directors Association is recommending that funeral directors adhere to Centers for Disease Control guidelines to limit events to 10 or fewer people and urged its membership to livestream and stagger events to reduce their size.

Leak & Sons, which has locations in Chatham, Austin and suburban Country Club Hills, has limited services to family only. At the CB Taylor Funeral Home, 63 E. 79th St., they are allowing up to 250 people for now — but said that can change. Other funeral homes are adjusting as well. 

In Beverly, Angel Martinez, one of the funeral directors at the Donnellan Funeral Home at 10525 S. Western Ave., said they increased their cleaning efforts and are going to start limiting the amount of attendees.

He added that because the guidance seems to change daily, they are just “winging it” and that grieving families are focused on their loss rather than what’s going on in the country right now.

“Some people do not share the same amount of concern. Their loved one has just passed away and they have friends and other acquaintances that they don’t want to exclude so it’s challenging. We aren’t trying to insult anybody but we have to think of public safety. But we can’t wear space suits either,” Martinez said.

Across town in Belmont Cragin, livestreaming was something Alvarez Funeral Directors considered in the past but hadn’t started until this week because of the coronavirus threat, said owner Susan Alvarez. 

“We talked about it for awhile but didn’t have a camera and start doing it until now. We are livestreaming and have limited visits to family only,” Alvarez said. 

She added that her clients seem to understand.

“They are aware of what’s going on and completely understand,” Alvarez said.

Bob Pietryka, owner of Pietryka Funeral Home which has two locations in Belmont, said while he’s considering offering livestreaming, he doesn’t believe that will satisfy his customers.

“Most of our families are immigrant Polish or Spanish and to be honest, they aren’t going to get anything out of streaming it. If they aren’t here in person it’s not going to satisfy the need,” Pietryka said.

For Pietryka, the current situation is especially tough because he previously booked two wakes set to take place Tuesday night.

“I previously scheduled a double tonight and unlike a wedding we have to bury the dead, we can’t keep saving them. So, what we have done is pulled half the chairs out of our chapels and put up signs all over the place asking people to keep the crowd under 50. The feds are advising to keep it under 10 and I just hope people are smart enough to pay their last respects and go home,” Pietryka said.

He added that he also instructed his staff to clean the bathrooms and wipe down door handles every hour. Additionally, Pietryka said his staff will try to remind people to leave soon after paying their respects.

“We are going to have our staff walking around and be kind of like the police back in the day with gangbangers on the corner — if they are congregating, they have to go.”

Pietryka also said they will soon be limiting the number of people who can enter the funeral home at one time and will not let them remain inside for long.

“Moving forward, we are going to start checking people at the door. We’ll keep it to 10 to 15 people but in some cases it will be hard. When you have a grandmother who dies, you have her kids and their spouses and their kids. All I can do is recommend to the family to stagger their visits. A lot of our families like to show up at 4 o’clock and hang out all night long. That’s done. Right now we can’t do that.”

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