Podcast | Caring for the dead in a pandemic

The coronavirus has placed new demands on the death care industry. One ‘removal technician’ tells us how procedures, and rituals, are changing.

Jessica Henry wearing a mask

Jessica Henry at Lilith Tattoo in Fremont on June 3. Henry had only recently started her job at the shop when the pandemic hit, then she started working as a removal technician in the death care industry. (Dorothy Edwards/Crosscut)

Over the past three months, Americans have made drastic changes to almost every aspect of their lives to limit the spread of the coronavirus. They have transformed the way they work, the way they relax, the way they eat, the way they worship. At the center of all of this change is death, the singular thing that those changes are intended to forestall. So, naturally, death has changed as well. On this week's episode of This Changes Everything, host Sara Bernard contemplates what happens in the moment when a loved one passes away, whether from the virus or another cause. She speaks with reporter Margo Vansynghel, who tells the story of Jessica Henry, a woman whose life was upended by the virus and who is now a part of the death care industry. Henry shares her experiences with the changing procedures and rituals that surround death during COVID-19 and how being face to face with death every day is changing the way she thinks about life.

Read Margo Vansynghel's story about Jessica Henry.


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