On Tuesday Joseph Ruggiero III, Funeral Director of the Ruggiero Family Memorial Home in Orient Heights, East Boston, told me to hold on for a minute as the phone in his office rings.
The incoming call is for the removal of a deceased resident who died at home.
“What’s the address? Do you have a time of death? Has the medical examiner released the body?”, asks Ruggiero.
Then comes the question Ruggiero has been asking for the past 10 days.
“Is it Covid? It is, okay, we’ll be right out,” he says before hanging up.
We have all been warned that COVID-19 infections and deaths would surge and hit an apex by the middle of the month and Ruggiero is becoming all too familiar with the predicted surge.
“We serviced more families at the Ruggiero Family Memorial Home than any other day in our 20 plus years of business,” said Ruggiero.
In the past 10 days Ruggiero said the Funeral Home has processed funeral arrangements for 15 confirmed COVID-19 victims and another six that were ‘presumptive’ cases.
“The medical examiners are not coming out to do testing anymore,” he said. “If someone dies at home and was symptomatic before their death it is presumed to be COVID based on the criteria and symptoms. However, there could be many more deaths due to COVID than we know.”
Ruggiero points to an Eagle Hill man that died last week in his late 40s as an example.
“Was he infected? Did he meet the criteria? Without a test to confirm we just don’t know but we have assumed and take all the necessary precautions when we go pick up the deceased,” he said.
There’s also the elderly, some who have no family members around or have been in isolation since the pandemic began to hit Boston.
Sure, one can assume many of the deaths could be from natural causes or old age but Ruggiero argues some of the deaths could be COVID related and slip through the cracks. “It’s real out there,” he said. “Please stay home and stay safe. Hug your loved ones that live with you and keep everyone else six feet away. Make time to check in with your family and friends, some of the strongest people in your life might be alone and very scared. Use zoom, FaceTime, Skype to tell people you love them and will see them soon. Cherish the time in doors because the alternative is sad, horrible and often catastrophic.”