Credit: Grace Pickering | Mustang News

The City of San Luis Obispo issued an emergency proclamation on Jan. 7 to extend the hours of crematories and mortuaries amid an increase of COVID-19 deaths and projections of post-holiday deaths, according to a press release. 

COVID-19 is now the leading cause of death in San Luis Obispo County and has resulted in the deaths of over 100 local residents, County Health Officer Penny Borenstein said in a Jan. 8 press release. 

Previously, these crematories and mortuaries were permitted to operate during the weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. but have requested to remain open as many days and hours deemed necessary to keep up with demand.

“We have some employees that are unable to have their days off anymore; everyone’s working overtime,” Reis Family Mortuary and Crematory owner Wendy Reis said. 

The proclamation, effective immediately, helps crematories and mortuaries facilitate burials and return cremated remains to designated individuals in a timely manner, according to Reis. 

“I think every mortuary in the county has had a huge increase in business,” Reis said.

Reis Family Mortuary and Crematory not only serves the San Luis Obispo community but also families nationwide. Reis said the business has been asked to hold remains for additional periods of time, as their final destinations have been too impacted to receive the deceased.

Reis has implemented additional safety precautions, such as moving much of the arrangement planning over the phone and online.

“Normally we would let anyone come in and make arrangements, but we have to be aware of exposure to our families as well as exposure to our employees,” Reis said.

City Manager Derek Johnson issued the proclamation and was granted special authority to create regulations on matters related to the protection of life and property in times of emergency. The emergency proclamation modifies city zoning rules to allow mortuaries and crematories to extend their hours of operation.

“I can’t think of a clearer sign of the times than this,” City Manager Derek Johnson said in the press release. “We need everyone to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19, now more than ever.”

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