Miller says coroner’s office avoiding home death calls, claim denied

As the number of cases of COVID-19 increase in the state as well as Ouachita Parish, some government agencies may be curtailing usual responses in the interest of public safety.

Recently the City fire department announced that the fire department will not respond to emergency medical calls unless there is a fire.

The city of Bastrop announced that its police are not stopping citizens for misdemeanor offenses to reduce minor offenses. Monroe Police are writing citations for many offenses that usually would result in jail offenses.

One local funeral home director says that the parish Coroner’s office is reducing its exposure to COVID-19 by delegating its duties to surrogates.
Rick Miller, President of Miller’s Funeral Home, said since the COVID virus concerns have been elevated,  funerals that his company has worked have not been attended by the Coroner’s office, a claim that the coroner’s office denies.

Miller said his company handled five funerals last week and the coroner’s office did not appear in person but relied on surrogates or phone calls.

Louisiana law requires the coroner to either view the body or make an investigation into the cause and manner of death in all cases. The law also requires the coroner to personally view deaths due to virulent contagious disease that might be caused by or cause a public hazard.

Warren Lee, chief investigator for the Coroner’s office told the Free Press Tuesday that the coroner’s office has not changed its procedure. He said representatives of the coroner’s office still come to homes if there is a death; nothing has changed.

However, Warren said persons who die in Hospice care are handled over the telephone.

Miller says the Coroner’s office seems to be worried about the virus, but funeral home workers are exposed to the same risks as the Coroner’s office.
While the local media reports that there has been one death in Ouachita Parish due to COVID-19, Miller says many deaths are not officially connected to the disease because victims were not tested. He said Miller’s has had a funeral nearly every day for the last week.

Quinton McFarland of McFarland Funeral Home said, his company has serviced one identified virus victim this week. The victim was in the hospital and was reviewed by the Coroner’s office.

McFarland Funeral Home and Hester’s report no increase in the number of funeral services they handled, while Miller’s has had a dramatic increase, according to Miller.

Warren said the Coroner’s office has serviced three COVID-19 related deaths in Ouachita Parish as of Tuesday.