The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has forced elected officials in New York to enact new game-changing measures across the board, including those related to hosting funerals.
New York Attorney General Letitia outlined new guidance that has been provided for funeral directors in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed the lives of hundreds of Americans.
The Centers for Disease Control said that there is currently no known risk associated with being in the same room at a funeral or visitation service with the body of someone who died of COVID-19, though social distancing should still be enforced.
According to the CDC, “a funeral or visitation service can be held for a person who has died of COVID-19. Funeral home workers should follow their routine infection prevention and control precautions when handling a decedent who died of COVID-19.”
Thomas Fuller, the Director of the Bureau of Funeral Directing said that, "individuals who are close contacts of the decedent may themselves be infected with or incubating the virus, and should not attend as they may infect others. Furthermore, any person who is experiencing a fever, cough or other symptom or has any health condition which could put them at risk should not attend services or calling hours.
"People should consider not touching the body of someone who has died as a result of COVID-19. Older people and people of all ages with severe underlying health conditions are at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness. There may be less chance of the virus spreading from certain types of touching, such as holding the hand or hugging after the body has been prepared for viewing. Other activities, such as kissing, washing, and shrouding should be avoided before, during, and after the body has been prepared."
There are currently 25,665 (4,790 new) cases in New York State.
According to James:
- All large gatherings should be avoided if possible. Otherwise, gatherings must be limited to no more than 50-percent of the maximum capacity of the funeral home or 50 individuals, whichever is lower.
- Though there is currently no known risk associated with being in the same room with the body of someone who died from COVID-19, people should consider not touching the body. Additionally, individuals who were in close contact with the decedent prior to their passing may themselves be infected with the virus and should not attend funeral services as they may infect others.
- Funeral home workers should follow their routine infection prevention and control precautions when handling a decedent who died of COVID-19. For transporting a body that has been bagged, workers should disinfect the outside of the bag with an EPA-approved product expected to be effective against COVID-19.
“Our country is facing a unique state of crisis with the spread of the coronavirus. While we all may want to celebrate our loved ones’ lives and memorialize them, at this time, we must continue to practice social distancing and limit large public gatherings, including at funeral services," she said. "Our number one goal should be to limit the spread of this disease and stop more New Yorkers from getting sick. The Department of Health’s recommendations are common-sense measures that will help keep New Yorkers safe.”
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