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According to the Tennessee Department of Funeral Directors, Embalmers and Burial Services, in response to public health concerns regarding the number of people in social gatherings, direction is included in Executive Order No. 17 issued on Sunday, March 22 by Governor Bill Lee.

To limit the spread of COVID-19 so that normal life and activities may resume as soon as possible, the Governor has ordered that persons in the state of Tennessee shall not participate in social gatherings of ten or more people.

Those social gatherings include, but are not limited to visitations, funerals, or other memorial events and burial of deceased humans whether held at a funeral establishment, church, cemetery or other facility. Executive Order No. 17 shall be effective and enforceable and shall remain in effect until 12:01 a.m., Central Daylight Time (CDT), on April 6 at which time the suspension of any state laws and rules and other provisions of this order shall be of no further effect.

Juanita Ruff, manager of Daves Culbertson Funeral Home is taking the governor’s orders seriously in her business.

“ We are going to do our best to abide by Executive Order No. 17 and keep gatherings limited to ten or less people,” Ruff said. “What the governor has said will apply to visitations and funerals. We are going to try with suggesting graveside services and limiting visitations.”

Tracie Burnett, owner of J.A. Welton Funeral Home is taking the same precautionary measures as Ruff with her business due to the recent order by Governor Lee.

“ Starting today, we are going to a graveside service or have services with families of ten or less members now either at the church or the funeral home,” Burnett said. “We are taking precautions because this is very serious to us. People are able to sign the guest book online or call the funeral home in lieu of coming to a visitation. They can also send memorial cards and other sentimental gestures like that.”

“ The main concern is the amount of people coming into our funeral home,” she added. “It is definitely hard to handle when families and friends want to come to the services. We are looking into letting guests in in groups during visitations in order to make sure everyone is happy. All we can do is control this the best that we can.”

Greg Kilgore, owner of Kilgore Funeral Home, is taking precaution by posting the executive order on the front doors of the establishment to educate his customers, but plans to keep operations running the same.

“ We don’t recommend hugging or shaking hands or anything like that. We are not telling anyone that they cannot come to the funeral home. I believe that people are adults and they know when they are at risk. I am not going to mandate that no more than ten people can come into my facility,” Kilgore said. “I take this seriously and we are asking that if people do not feel like being out in public or being around people, do not come. They can go to our website and sign a virtual registry book. We just ask that people use common sense if they come to the funeral home.”

“ We are keeping surfaces clean. We have hand sanitizers out and things like that,” he added. “If it gets worse, there may be other things that we do like having a registry book sitting outside that people can walk up and sign without walking into the building. I do not know that we are to that point yet.”

The News reached out to Tullahoma Funeral Home, Inc. and did not hear back about their plans for future funerals and visitations under executive order no. 17 at this time.

Katelyn Lawson may be reached at klawson@tullahomanews.com

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