When a loved one dies, it’s natural to want to honor that person’s life with a gathering of friends and family. A funeral or memorial tribute provides family members and friends an environment to offer comfort, support to one another and share their thoughts and feelings about the life of the deceased. Therefore, learning that you’re unable to have the type of gathering you would like to have because of the COVID-19 pandemic can be disappointing and even devastating news.
The importance of having a funeral to honor the deceased and giving loved ones an opportunity to celebrate that life and begin to grieve is unquestioned. Your funeral director is committed to providing you with the opportunity to say goodbye to your loved one and give other family members and friends the opportunity to do the same - even during these challenging times.
The unprecedented novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, however, requires funeral professionals to balance their long-held values with the need to: flatten the curve of the pandemic; protect the health of attendees, funeral home staff and clergy/celebrant; and reduce the potential for community spread and mass-fatalities.
Therefore, if you are planning a funeral during the current health crisis, regardless of the cause of death, your funeral director will likely be following the current guidance from the National Funeral Directors Association, the world’s largest funeral service association for funeral service professionals, and the CDC.
Social Distancing During Visitations and Funerals
As many communities in the United States begin to reopen, the number of attendees allowed at large gatherings—including visitations and funerals— varies greatly from place to place. Regardless of whether that number of attendees is 10, 50 or more, however, the need to practice proper social distancing is critical for protecting the health of attendees, funeral home staff and the clergy/celebrants.
Proper social distancing is a vital tool for minimizing the spread of COVID-19. According to the CDC “Considerations for Gatherings and Events," the risk of COVID-19 spreading at events and gatherings increases as follows:
Lowest risk: Virtual-only activities, events, and gatherings. More risk: Smaller outdoor and in-person gatherings in which individuals from different households remain spaced at least 6 feet apart, wear cloth face coverings, do not share objects, and come from the same local area (e.g., community, town, city, or county).
Higher risk: Medium-sized in-person gatherings that are adapted to allow individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and with attendees coming from outside the local area.
Highest risk: Large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area.
While there are a variety methods for achieving proper social distancing, they are meant to supplement—not replace—any state or local safety laws, rules and regulations with which gatherings must comply.
According to the CDC, social distancing and everyday preventative actions should always be practiced at visitations and funerals, including:
- Holding services and/or gatherings in large, well-ventilated areas or outside.
- Spacing seats for attendees who do not live in the same household at least six feet apart.
- Requiring attendees who do not live in the same household to stay six feet apart and to wear a cloth face mask when interacting with others who do not live in their household.
- Asking guests to scale back direct contact with the family and other attendees, including not shaking hands, hugging or kissing, etc.
Your funeral director recognizes this limit is very difficult for families who are grieving the death of a loved one but asks for your understanding during this challenging time. Funeral directors will continue to do all they can to help families understand the options they have for commemorating the life of a loved one in a manner that is safe for everyone involved.
Guidance from the CDC
For additional guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, read Funeral Guidance for Individuals and Families.