Angie Ortiz’s heart is broken. After years of dreaming and months of planning, she was forced to postpone her wedding, which was set for Sunday.
Thanks to the COVID-19 epidemic, she couldn’t be sure all of the 300 people she invited were going to be able to make it.
She and her groom, Tommy Urrea, now hope to get married in May.
“The church is not closed but (Tommy) was worried his friends are not going to come out because they are worried about the virus. And we want everyone to be there to celebrate it.”
Although she’s terribly disappointed, Ortiz said she and her fiancé have faith that everything will be alright.
‘When I’m alone I’m in tears,” said Ortiz. “To me the world is overreacting, and it’s affecting everyone’s lives.”
Stasha Barlow, local wedding coordinator and owner of Jars and Lace said that although she has had two weddings rescheduled for the fall, two more couples have just scheduled for the summer.
As for those that are scheduled now, she’s taking a wait-and-see approach.
“The wedding couples that have weddings coming up plan to have their special day. They expect that a lot of their guests will cancel, but the fun would continue with a smaller crowd,” said Barlow. “I want all my clients to know that no matter what happens, Jars and Lace will work with you to make your day special and a memorable one.”
Torey Cranford, who owns Cakes with TLC bakery in Safford, is seeing an impact, too.
She’s had two weddings cancelled. One has been rescheduled for May.
“At this point, I’m taking it day-by-day,” Cranford said. “Right now I am following the health department guidelines like I always have about cleanliness, so as long as no one in my home is sick or the health department mandates otherwise, I am going to continue to do business.”
Chris Hunt, who opened The Venue in Safford two and half years ago, said one couple has postponed their reception so far. She’s got two more wedding receptions slated for the last weekend of the month.
“They’re struggling and I’m struggling to decide what to do,” Hunt said.
She finds herself constantly visiting the websites of Arizona Department of Health Services and Centers for Disease Control looking for the latest updates on the epidemic.
“Things are really scary right now,” the Pima resident said.
She and her husband, Steve, have been extra diligent cleaning their Main Street business, she said.
The Venue was the site of a large wedding last Saturday. Afterward, she had to replenish an extraordinary amount of hand soap and toilet paper.
“I guess there was a lot of hand washing going on, which is good,” she said.
It’s not just milestones like weddings that are being impacted by this worldwide crisis.
Funerals no longer look the same and may be altered even more in the future.
Dan Douglas, the funeral director at Westlawn Chapel & Mortuary in Willcox said he is encouraging people to abide by the recommendations released by the White House on Monday.
In other words, he would like to limit memorial services to no more than 10 people. He’s posted notes on his door and inside the mortuary, but he realizes the difficulty many large families will have with such a recommendation.
In fact, one family has opted to postpone a memorial service until April, Douglas said.
“I hope they adhere to the recommendations, but I’m not going to stand by the door and say ‘You can’t come in,” Douglas said.
Unfortunately, Douglas said he doesn’t have the ability to live stream services, but he has thought about it.
Mark Vining of Vining Funeral Home in Safford said he has a two-phase plan and he is praying he never has to resort to the second phase.
In Phase One right now, Vining said his staff is disinfecting laptop computers, door knobs, chairs and other things on an hourly basis. He’s also making hand sanitizer readily available.
He’s encouraging families to hold private services for just families and short graveside services, again just for families.
If someone is being cremated, no services are being held, Vining said.
“We’re trying to mitigate the spread of the virus,” he said.
He’s spoken to other funeral directors who have been severely impacted by the virus, including those in the Seattle area. It’s with their input that he’s come up with Phase Two.
Once the number of COVID-19 hits a certain threshold, Vining said the public will no longer be allowed into the mortuary. There will be no more viewings and services will be held at the graveside with immediate family only, meaning spouses, children, siblings and parents.
The arrangements for the funeral will be completed through emails, texts, Skype or Facetime, he said.
“We’re preparing for the worst so that on that day, we can be at our best,” Vining said. “We want to make sure we’re ahead of this. We get to learn from their mistake. We have no excuse not to be.”
Vining said he hopes the number of cases will be far fewer than predicted, “but I have a sneaking suspicion it’s on its way.”