8 a.m. ET Monday
It’s the first day back at work for Scott E. Lynn, the Montour County coroner. He’s been sick with covid-19. He was out for a month and lost 25 pounds. As he arrives at his office in a remote corner of Geisinger Medical Center, he still feels weak.
Lynn doesn’t know how he contracted the coronavirus. Deceased people do not spread the virus under normal circumstances. And Lynn mostly handles corpses enclosed in two layers of body bags.
“I can only assume it was somewhere in the process of my death investigations,” he says. He wears a mask at work, but he still has to go into homes, motel rooms, hospital rooms, getting close not only to the dead person but also to witnesses and survivors.
The coroner is often the person who informs families that a loved one has died. There is an art to that, and Lynn says the coroner cannot wear a mask when telling someone news that will crush them. A good coroner also does not say someone “is no longer with us” or “passed away.” Lynn simply states that the person died. “To start the grieving process, you basically have to hit ’em between the eyes.”
Now, he is worried he won’t be able to withstand the physical demands of the week ahead. The previous weekend, his office handled 17 covid-19 deaths. This weekend, 15.
Lynn notices an envelope on his desk.
It’s a resignation letter from one of his deputies, totally out of the blue. The deputy has a family, and the work had become too much.
Just like that, Lynn’s workforce has shrunk from five to four. And his situation is about to get worse.