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Covid-19 Funeral Precautions

The unfortunate loss of loved ones has not changed during the Covid-19 pandemic but how funerals are being conducted has changed in order to comply with the federal and provincial Covid-19 restrictions. The restrictions in place make an already difficult scenario even more difficult with the worry of infection, especially for the most at risk people. Implementing restrictions means people can safely grieve the loss of their loved ones while being confident of their safety from infection. 

In collaboration with community, religious leaders and funeral professionals, the center for disease control and prevention has come up with guidelines for making funeral services as safe as possible. Here we will explain these restrictions and the guiding principles behind them. 

Factors Associated with Covid-19 Transmission

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  • The possibility of transmission is increased when larger groups of people interact within more confined spaces. As a result, it is recommended to maintain a distance of 6 feet between individuals.
  • In cases where social distancing cannot be maintained, masks are a proven method of reducing transmission of infection.
  • Outdoor and well-ventilated areas reduce the likelihood of infection and are safer spaces for interactions.
  • Sharing items such as religious articles like books and statues, can help spread infection and should be minimised or stopped completely.
  • Group singing can increase the chance of infection by promoting airborne viral particles and should be avoided.
  • Frequent hand cleansing with the addition of surface disinfection prevents surface transmission.
  • It is recommended to be extra cautious with those most at risk of infection.

Potential for Infection at the Various Types of Funeral

Virtual Funerals

Virtual funerals pose the lowest risk due to the complete separation of individuals. For those most at risk, virtual attendance is the safest option.

Small Funeral Gatherings

When virtual attendance is not an option and in-person attendance is compulsory, ensuring small outdoor gatherings are the next best thing. Although infection is still a possibility, being outdoors, spaced 6-feet apart and wearing masks with a small group of people is safer than indoor alternatives.

Potential for infection is also reduced by limiting the small group of attendees to local people and avoiding people travelling from another locality.

Large Funeral Gatherings

Large groups make distancing more difficult both indoor and outdoor. The frequency of touched surfaces also increases all leading to a likely chance of infection.

The CDC have evidence of group infections as a result of a funeral gathering. 

Steps Taken to Prevent Covid-19 Infection at Funerals

Corona Virus Precautions Graphic

  1. Limited attendance to a small number and immediate family and friends. Attendance restrictions are provided by provincial and local authorities. For information about current attendance restrictions, contact your funeral director for up-to-date information.
  2. Implement social distancing guidelines as discussed above. If indoors, hold services in large well-ventilated spaces. If circumstances allow an outdoor venue, this would be a preference for safety.
  3. Seating should be spaced 6 feet apart and masks should be worn when households are interacting.
  4. People from the same household should be encouraged to comfort each other but not those in other households.
  5. Funerals frequently bring together people who have not seen each other in a long time. Instead of the usual greetings such as hand shaking or hugging, people are instead, encouraged to wave, bow or head nod.
  6. Minimise the amount of people engaging in group singing or chanting. If necessary, have those involved separated at least 6 feet or more if possible.
  7. Frequent hand and surface sanitizing will help prevent transmission between households

Covid-19 optional changes to traditional funeral arrangements

Funeral directors can provide you with options to change traditional funeral services to accommodate Covid-19 related safety measures. Here are some non-traditional options you may wish to consider:

  • As outdoor spaces are safer, you may consider a grave-side only service.
  • Keep households separate during the traditional transport methods. This may require additional vehicles or families may use their personal vehicles instead.
  • In cases where food and beverages are provided for funeral attendees, this practice is discouraged, and if required, should be provided/distributed as individual portions and not a self-service style. Utensils should receive the same precautions.
  • Consider not providing handbooks or worship aids to the attendees as these could be passed among users and facilitate transmission of infection.
  • Many cultures have a tradition where they bring the grieving family gifts. Gifts can range from food items to flowers. In order to prevent transmission, gift giving should be via delivery or can be substituted for intangible items.
  • Touching the deceased’s body is a common tradition in many cultures. This should be avoided or at least enforce hand sanitizing for each individual immediately following the touch. Hands should be washed for 20 seconds with soap and water or with hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol. An alternative is to have attendees wear gloves when touching the deceased and disposal of the gloves immediately after.
  • Removing, retaining or distributing possessions of the deceased (such as wedding rings) to family members require that the items be sanitized before being passed on and hands cleaned immediately after removal.
  • Care should also be taken when retrieving items from the deceased’s home, hospital or funeral home. Gloves, item sanitizing and hand washing is encouraged.

Are there any special requirements for burying or cremating a person who died from Covid-19?

Persons who died of Covid-19 can be buried or cremated as usual. Restrictions only apply to the handling of the body which is more relevant for the funeral home than the family of the deceased. Discuss these with the funeral director. 

What are the most important things to know about Covid-19 at funerals?

Gloves hand sanitizer and face mask

  1. Education of the community or attendees is the most important thing. A community who is aware of the dangers of infection are more equipped to prevent it.
  2. Limiting the number of attendees at a funeral dramatically reduces the chance of infection.
  3. Frequent cleaning of surfaces and hands significantly reduces the chance of transmission.
  4. Washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol sanitizes the virus from hands.
  5. Avoiding close contact with people who are sick prevents transmission.
  6. People who are sick should not attend funeral gatherings and should opt for virtual attendance if this is an option.
  7. Attendees should maintain a social distance of 6 feet and wear masks at all possible times.
  8. Masks should not be places on children under 2 years of age, persons with compromised breathing ability or anyone who cannot remove the mask unassisted.

How do you transport the body of a person who died of Covid-19?

  • To transport the body of a person who died of Covid-19, handlers should wear disposable gloves and the body should be contained in an impermeable shroud to contain any body fluids that could transport the virus.
  • The outside of the body bag should be cleaned with an EPA-approved disinfectant in a manner shown to destroy the virus.
  • Gloves and PPE used during transport should be disposed of or disinfected as per the CDC guidelines.

If you have any questions about Covid-19 precautions at funerals, contact Zentner Funeral Homes Ltd. for more information. 

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