Dear AFDA members,
We recognize that we are all dealing with an unprecedented situation. Not only is it unprecedented but it is evolving quickly. AFDA has been in close contact with national and state leaders to discuss the impact of this virus upon our members, the families you serve and the funeral service as a whole. Please note the below items for some measure of guidance.
FUNERALS AND PUBLIC GATHERINGS:
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has made the following recommendations regarding public gatherings:
- Limiting large gatherings, with the CDC recommending that all gatherings of over 50 people be cancelled or postponed. This balances the need for critical events to still take place without undue exposure;
- Social distancing should be used along with good hygiene to minimize the transmission from person to person;
- Keep in mind such alternatives, such as live-streaming over the internet. Facebook allows simple ways for this to happen and it can also be a good way to attract visitors to your social media sites, if there are services being broadcast on these media with the family’s permission. Staggering events to have fewer each day will help alleviate stress on your funeral home and reduce the chances of transmission between groups. Avoid having two families in the home at one time.
Further, this afternoon President Trump went a step further recommending that all Americans avoid gatherings of more than ten (10) people. This of course has tremendous impact on funerals.
While this information is only a guidance at this time, all funeral homes are urged to limit funerals to the most immediate family members only in order to participate in the public effort to stop the spread of this contagious virus.
It’s important that all funeral homes stand united on this front. In moments like these we are not competitors, we are leaders in our community that help ensure threats to those we serve are abated as quickly as possible. All funeral homes are urged to be of one mind in severely limiting the size of such gatherings and honoring the requests made by our state and national leaders, as we’ve seen sports and numerous other industries do.
The CDC website (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html) is the best place to get the most current information, and all your activities or temporary policies should use them as a primary source for implementing any changes that you might make. The NFDA has also made available some guidance in line with the CDC, which can be found here: https://www.nfda.org/covid-19.
CARING FOR THE DECEASED:
What this means for funeral homes and embalmers is still not perfectly clear. There are many questions which still have not been satisfactorily answered as the answers are simply not available immediately. Many organizations, including the CDC, NFDA, and AFDA, are waiting for concrete information before disseminating this further so that everyone can receive clear, safe advice as quickly and efficiently as possible. We do know that bodies can be embalmed using proper PPE, according to best practice guidelines, and care should be taken to minimize the aeration of particulates from the decedent. That being said, the following guidance has been given by healthcare and industry professionals as recommendations. These will not stop all transmission of the Coronavirus but simply represent good practice in line with national guidance.
- There is currently no known risk on being in the same room as a decedent who died from Coronavirus. If there is direct physical contact with the body, particularly kissing, washing or shrouding, then there is a chance of transmission and we recommend good hand hygiene and not to touch your face after these activities.
- Current medical understanding shows that the virus stays virulent for several days on non-porous surfaces such as stainless steel and for up to 24 hours on porous surfaces such as cardboard. Using disinfectant on "high-touch" areas once or twice a day is sensible and more frequent cleaning may be desired for high-traffic areas, such as entrance/exit rooms and door handles.
- PPE should be used as part of normal routines for interaction with decedents and, while there is disruption to the global supply chain, the CDC encourages funeral homes to review strategies for their use of these. NIOSH has a strategy guide on their website listing other options available. If you are concerned about shortages of PPE, get in touch with the state health department.
- Keeping guests safe at public events will consist of promoting high standards of personal hygiene, limiting numbers - at individual events and through shared use of the same public spaces - and encouraging social distancing. This last item is more sensitive as there is a greater likelihood of hugging, crying and kissing at funeral homes than in other locations. This is the guidance from the CDC and should be communicated to all guests and staff.
- Transportation of decedents should be done with the mouth and nose covered to limit airborne particulates. Hospitals and nursing homes are likely to have their own guidelines on transporting people to and from their premises. Reaching out to them directly will be the best way to ensure that procedures are followed as best they can be.
Both of these sites are helpful and worthy of monitoring:
As this situation develops, we will continue to monitor all information that impacts funeral care. Further, we will stay in close contact with state and national leaders and regulatory agencies. We also encourage you to monitor any actions taken by local officials in your community. Please call on our team if you have any questions or need help!