The city of San Luis Obispo is allowing local crematory and mortuary businesses to extend their operating hours amid a growing number of COVID-19 related deaths.
City officials say the emergency proclamation was issued after requests from Wheeler Smith Mortuary and Reis Family Mortuary. The businesses asked the city to remove restrictions on hours of operation due to increased demand.
Reis Family Mortuary and Crematory owner, Kirk Reis says the need for his services varies, but with the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, it has been hard to keep up.
"Some days there are a lot of people passing and other days we don't get but 1 call. Some days it's 5 calls, some days it's 1 and they just keep coming," he said.
He says families of COVID-19 victims deserve the same service they typically provide and the increased hours will help.
"They want to plan things, and they want to go on with their grieving process and it slows that down when they have to wait and there is no answer as to when they can have their loved ones back," Reis said.
Wheeler-Smith Mortuary also released a statement writing:
"The City of SLO has extended the hours that our crematory can operate. The proclamation suspending restrictions on our city regulated hours of operation will help us in the course of our cremation operations and as the county COVID-19 deaths rise. This will allow us to continue to meet the needs of our families and the community for cremation services in a timely manner. We want to continue to provide the level of care and service to our families that we did before the COVID-19 pandemic and having this proclamation in place will allow us to do so."
Under current city zoning rules, crematory and mortuary businesses are only allowed to operate from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays.
Deputy City Manager Greg Hermann released a statement saying it is important for the community to do it's part.
"The city is working with businesses across the community to provide support and respond to needs during this time. This is a sobering reminder of the local impacts of the virus on our community. We are asking all members of our community to do their part to keep each other safe and healthy," Hermann said.
On Friday, the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department reported six additional COVID-19 related deaths, bringing the county's total to 101.
County Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein says COVID-19 is currently the leading cause of death in San Luis Obispo County, as well as the U.S. as a whole.
City Manager Derek Johnson issued the emergency proclamation Thursday night and the city council will be asked to ratify the order at its meeting on Jan. 12.