FLEMINGTON, NJ - This week’s Covid-19 update from Flemington Mayor Betsy Driver and OEM Coordinator Cpl Brian McNally included sobering words from D.J. Wright, owner and executive director of the Wright & Ford Funeral Home.
“It [Covid-19] is killing people left and right, it’s a reality,” said Wright.
He added that, in April, there were 14,755 provisional deaths, and that is 8,470 more than in any April over the past five years. And, he said, 90 percent of the deaths that went through his funeral home were due to the coronavirus.
“And I don’t want to hear, ‘well they were older and they were going to pass," he said. “No, they had five, maybe six more years with their loved ones.”
Wright also said that some people he has spoken with don’t believe it, but he can confirm that there are three 54-foot refrigerated trailers side by side stacked four high outside of Lenox Hill Hospital being filled every day with the dead. He added that there is also a big refrigerated trailer outside of the old Somerset Medical Center decedents.
"It’s very sad what we’ve seen,” he said, “but I’ve been impressed with the respect and dignity with which the deceased have been treated.”
The funeral home, like most businesses, has adapted to the new normal with continual cleaning and sterilizing. Yet people are scared.
Wright spoke about a recent funeral for a veteran in which chairs were set up more then six feet apart out front of the funeral home on Route 31 because people were concerned about going inside. So they held the service outside, he said, and at least the widow got to put her hand on the casket.
Securing the necessities of doing business has added to the frustration.
“Even though we are essential, a key to public health,” said Wright, “getting supplies is one of my biggest problems.”
Specifically, he mentioned body bags. Normally that’s not something he would use in most cases, he said, however now with the long transports and the Covid-19 contagion, the need has increased dramatically.
Wright thanked the Flemington OEM and the county for helping him get the equipment he needs. He also thanked residents who have shown concern.
“When you haven’t eaten in 18 hours, it’s really great when someone drops off fresh food,” he said. “People have been so gracious and kind.”
Driver described Wright as one of the people on the frontline of what’s happening.
“You’re probably one of the hardest working people right now in Hunterdon County,” she said, “dealing with a whole lot of things that I bet you never expected to be dealing with.”
Wright said that he and his senior funeral director have been working 24-hour days over the past three to four weeks. Finally, he added, it’s slowing down, but they need to be smart.
“As a community, we have a responsibility to each other,” said Wright. “I love everybody, and, quite frankly, I’m tired of burying people.”