The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a “Practical COVID-19 Guidance for Funeral Directors.”
Noting that “COVID-19 is a recent disease and we are still learning how it spreads,” a CDC spokesperson said that the ultimate goal in releasing the guidelines “is to save lives.”
The information is aimed at assuring that funeral, cremation and burial practices are safe — without depriving families a meaningful last goodbye.
The funeral directors who use Martin Oaks Crematory are completely familiar with and are in full compliance with the recommendations.
While detailing the technical aspects of funerals (such as appropriate transportation, embalming and preparation procedures), the CDC also offers cautionary advice regarding family visitation and funeral services.
These recommendations only further illustrate one gathering truth about Coronavirus. It has inexorably altered the world. Like a haymaker punch that solidly and unexpectedly connects, Coronavirus is a game changer in our collective history.
The CDC specifics about conducting funerals, cremations and burials all make sense considering what we now know about the virus.
Focusing essentially on risk avoidance, the protocols precisely enumerate what precautions need to be taken at all the memorial events. It addresses questions which mourners in today’s rapidly evolving environment might pose, such as: is it a risk to attend a visitation or funeral for someone who may have died of COVID-19? Or, is it safe to touch someone who has died of COVID-19?
Dr. David Berendes of the CDC says that the guidelines have three overarching principles: limit the interaction with the deceased loved one, limit the actual number of people at the events, and double-check to make sure prudent social practices, as Coronavirus has now defined them for us, are explicitly followed.
One of the chief vehicles for achieving the limitations is certainly high tech: the CDC encourages live streaming. Given that technology has created social distancing before social distancing became an imperative, live streaming is the perfect solution for crowd control at any public occasion.
Services then can be recorded and played for other mourners to watch at their convenience, again reducing the actual attendees.
Bottom line, as Dr. Berendes says, “we encourage alternative options to gatherings.”
As far as being near someone whose life was taken by the Coronavirus, the CDC states that there is currently no known risk associated with being in the same room at a funeral or a visitation service with that deceased. As far as touching the loved one, it’s just not a good idea.
Further, the CDC encourages those at the highest risk — the elderly, those who are ill or have immune system issues, to stay away.
During the event, which ideally should be for those in the immediate family, the recent nationally recognized limitation of no more than 10 people applies. If the doors in the funeral home can be left open so that no one has to touch a doorknob, all the better. Appropriate handwashing facilities and available hand sanitizers are also important.
Burials and cremations can take place according to family wishes, as long as stringent safety measures, as well as state and local requirements, are observed.
These recommendations line up with what our current understanding of COVID-19 is: a potentially severe respiratory illness that can lead to pneumonia or respiratory failure, particularly among the high risk population. It is spread chiefly by infectious respiratory droplets which are transmitted by coughs or sneezes. Symptoms include, but are not limited to, shortness of breath, fever and coughing.
Those in deathcare are in a difficult spot: embalming, crematory operators, and funeral directors cannot perform their work at home. The cremation machinery and the prep room are not accessible to operate from a remote location. Its hands on work which demands careful, smart planning, especially in these challenging days. But adversity is cyclical — there are lessons to be learned for the better days ahead.