Medical mask shortage impacting funeral homes, funeral director says

WATCH: Medical mask shortage impacting funeral homes, funeral director says

FORREST CITY, Ark. — An Arkansas funeral director told FOX13 she is badly in need of medical masks to do her job.

That’s why she’s calling on the local and state government to provide her with an emergency supply.

Funeral Director Effie Clay told FOX13 safety masks are vital in the funeral industry for protecting funeral directors from any diseases while preparing the bodies of loved ones. Right now, she’s down to her last couple, and she said her local health department isn’t even trying to help.

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“I just asked for a few masks. You didn’t have to give me a whole box. Just give me a couple,” she said.

Clay told FOX13 the masks that are in such high demand work. “Why is everyone trying to hoard them if they don’t work?” she asked.

Clay said she has two boxes of masks on backorder that won’t arrive until May.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, funeral directors are critical infrastructure workers. They are given access to state and government-issued emergency medical supplies.

Clay said she has been in contact with the St. Francis County Health Unit.

“The masks are for the nurses and doctors, and she is forgetting all about we handle the dead. So, we get them after they release them,” Clay said.

FOX13 made a call to the St. Francis County Health Unit to speak with the administrator, Dena Poteat.

She said the health unit only has enough masks for nurses who work at the unit.

Poteat said additional masks went to Jefferson County, where there are 23 positive cases of coronavirus.

As of Thursday morning, there have not been any positive cases of coronavirus reported in St. Francis County.

“One mask, just one, could be the one that saved my life,” Clay said.