Black South Carolina mortician concerned over COVID-19 deaths in the community

Around the South

CONWAY, S.C (WBTW) — As doctors battle the surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations, local morticians have also been keeping busy with COVID-19 deaths.

George Williams, a Black mortician in Conway, said he’s worried about dying from the virus, due to the rise in COVID-19 deaths he’s seeing in his community.

“I’ve handled a number of different ethnic groups. I’ve seen more COVID deaths in the Black community,” Williams said.

Williams, who is the funeral director at Mckeiver Funeral Home, said he’s still adjusting to providing services during the pandemic.

“I’ve not had a service indoors in two years,” Williams said.

Homegoing services, which are usually more intimate, have become distant due to COVID-19. Williams now concerned about the increase he’s seen in COVID-19 deaths.

Williams said he’s gotten vaccinated and is encouraging Black families to do the same. Doctor Gerald Harmo, with Tidelands Health Family Medicine, said he’s seeing COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in communities of color and data from SCDHEC backs his claims.

“I don’t think it’s because we’re not offering it. It’s from the geographical restrictions and perhaps the lack of acceptance and trustworthiness that might exist in communities of color,” Harmon said.

Harmon also said communities of color are at a greater risk of dying from COVID-19, due to pre-existing health conditions and lack of access to health care.

According to the Associated Press, 130 Black morticians have died from COVID-19 in the US. A shot in the arm, Williams hopes, will keep him from adding to that statistic.

“I would like for the community to embrace this vaccine. I would like for us to be safe. This is the only avenue that we seem to have,” Williams said.

Harmon said there are no long-term side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine and is encouraging the community to get vaccinated in hopes of alleviating pressure on local hospitals and funeral homes.

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