During the COVID-19 pandemic, New York has been the state hit the hardest by the virus, leading the nation in both cases and deaths. Now, American River College’s funeral services program has stepped up and offered to assist the state in dealing with the process that happens after someone has died.
Valarie Rose, assistant professor of Funeral Service Education, says that the program is willing to help out in any way that they can.
“We do everything needed, including helping to transfer deceased from the place of death, embalming, identification of deceased, transfer to the crematory, burial, and mostly helping to make sure that the deceased are cared for in a dignified manner throughout the process,” Rose said.
Rose says she is planning on traveling to New York soon to help with the process along with another student from the funeral services program.
“We have two students there now and anticipate me and another student going in the very near future,” Rose said.
According to Rose, the program trains and educates students to become licensed funeral directors and embalmers.
“[Students] complete the two-year program and are eligible to take the National Board examination,” Rose said. “When they pass the exam, they are eligible to take the state board examination in whatever state they would like to practice in. In California, either before, during, or after school, they must also complete a two-apprenticeship with a funeral home.”
Rose says that the decision to go to New York was an easy one because the state really needs help right now with the pandemic.
“It was easy for anyone in the funeral industry,” Rose says. “Dealing with death from any type of disease is not uncommon for us, and truthfully they really need help in New York right now, as the funeral homes do not have enough staff to keep up with the demand.”
Peter Ping, a student in the funeral service education program, took time off of work in order to go help out in New York.
“When I first heard about volunteering I wanted to do it but felt I couldn’t due to working full time. When I realized I could take some leave from work, I had to examine why I wanted to go,” Ping said.
Ping says he thought about both the negatives and positives about going to New York and decided that this is something that he wants to do.
“Most people right now, unless they’re in the medical field, can’t really help on the front lines, so to speak,” Ping said. “While I feel like I’m helping in a way in my grocery job, if I can do more elsewhere I’d like to, and I’m lucky to have the ability to drop everything else and leave to do it.”
Ping said he had reservations about leaving at first but was OK with the risks because he wants to help the people in New York.
“I have asthma, so I’m a bit higher risk if I contract COVID. Also, you are required to quarantine at home for two weeks after volunteering, and I didn’t want to potentially expose my roommates to COVID,” Ping said. “I’m going into this assuming I’ll get sick, which I might not, but I’m OK with it if it means I can help.”
Rose says that the program is open to helping other communities in need of assistance.
“We aren’t currently working in other areas, but have volunteered to work in any cities or states that need additional assistance,” Rose said.