COVID-19 has created many difficult situations for people, especially those that lose a loved one. During this time of social distancing and required isolation, it can make it hard to have proper closure and say your proper goodbyes like we are used to doing.

At Eco Bear, we are here to help you through this difficult time. We want you to know your options, what precautions to take, and how you can have the chance to say goodbye while keeping you and your family safe from COVID-19.

What You Should Know About COVID-19

First, you should know the facts about COVID-19. There is a lot of information out there and not all of it is truthful. You can count on us to provide you with the truth 100% of the time. We get our information straight from federal and state government sources, including the CDC. 

Here’s what we think you should know:

  • COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease. It can pass from person-to-person through touching and droplets from a cough or sneeze.
  • COVID-19 can also spread from a surface to a person. If an infected person touches a countertop, doorknob, light switch, or other common objects, the germs can spread to others that touch it.
  • The CDC doesn’t believe that being near a person that died of COVID-19 poses a threat, but you should have certain precautions in place, which we discuss below.
  • Not everyone shows symptoms but may have COVID-19. It’s important to have proper handwashing or sanitizing and social distancing rules in place at the funeral to be safe.
  • Anyone that has been exposed to an infected person with close contact (closer than 6 feet) for more than 10 minutes should not attend the funeral. Instead, they should isolate themselves for 14 days to make sure they don’t exhibit symptoms. If it’s vital that they attend and they show no symptoms, they should wear a proper face mask to prevent the spread of germs. 
  • Symptoms can take between 2 – 14 days after the day of exposure to show up, which is why a 14-day isolation period is recommended.
  • Anyone with symptoms should isolate themselves for 10 days after the start of symptoms and for 3 days after the last symptom subsides.
  • The symptoms of COVID-19 include a fever of at least 100.4, sore throat, cough, body aches, difficulty breathing, and loss of smell or taste. Some people have all of the symptoms, while others only have one or two. Be aware of the symptoms and if you exhibit even one, isolate yourself. 

High-Risk Individuals

While everyone is at risk of contracting COVID-19 if they come into contact with the virus, certain individuals are at high risk and should consider not attending a funeral, whether or not the deceased died of the disease as anyone present at the funeral could carry the virus.

High-risk individuals include:

  • Anyone over the age of 65
  • Pregnant women
  • Anyone with a chronic illness
  • Anyone with a compromised immune system

If anyone in the high-risk category does attend, he/she should follow strict social distancing rules (at least six feet), wear a face mask, and avoid touching any commonly touched objects. Proper handwashing or hand sanitizing should also be followed, which means cleaning hands as frequently as possible. 

Touching an Individual That Died of COVID-19

As we said above, the CDC doesn’t recognize a threat in being in the same room, such as a funeral parlor, of someone that died of COVID-19. However, they do recommend some of the following precautions:

  • Wait until after the body is prepared for viewing to touch or possibly hug as it’s still uncertain if you can catch the virus before the body is prepared
  • Kissing should be avoided even after the body is prepared for viewing
  • Anyone in the high-risk group above should not touch the body or come close to it
  • Funeral staff preparing the body should wear proper PPE if there will be splashing of bodily fluids during the preparation of the body, this includes gowns, gloves, and proper face covering

As of right now, the CDC deems it safe to have a body that died of COVID-19 cremated and/or buried.

Handling Funerals

Funerals are the epitome of being able to say goodbye to a loved one. Today, funerals are considered ‘essential,’ but with strict requirements in place.

  • Services should take place at the burial site whenever possible in order to be outdoors and reduce the spread of germs. 
  • If services can’t be held outdoors, they should be at a funeral home where proper precautions are put in place (more about that below).
  • Only 10 people should be in attendance at the funeral and it should only consist of immediate family members that live together in the same household
  • The only other people in attendance at the funeral should be the necessary funeral staff and an officiant, if applicable. 
  • Social distancing must be adhered to throughout the entire service, which means keeping at least a 6-foot distance between any non-household members.
  • There should not be any exchange of handshakes, hugs, or kisses.
  • Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should not be in attendance unless they have isolated themselves for at least 10 days since the start of symptoms and at least 3 days after the symptoms ended.
  • Anyone that starts to feel ill while at the funeral should leave immediately and avoid contact with anyone within 6-feet, including household members
  • Anyone that had exposure to an infected person should consider staying home as well if the contact was within 6 feet and for more than 10 minutes. If an exposed person does attend the funeral, they should wear a proper face covering to protect others.
  • Offer live streaming of the funeral services so that those that can’t attend because of the requirements can still have closure.

How Funeral Homes Can Help

Funeral homes can help families safely say their goodbyes by offering the following:

  • Plenty of tissues and waste bins throughout the funeral home. crying produces excessive nasal secretions, which is how COVID-19 spreads, so tissues must be easily accessed.
  • Plenty of handwashing or hand sanitizing stations. Make sure hand sanitizing stations are available at the entrance and throughout the area. The sanitizing stations should be touchless.
  • Post signage regarding the importance of handwashing after coming into contact with another person, the deceased, going to the bathroom, blowing your nose, or eating.
  • Prop the door open if possible to let fresh air come through. This also eliminates one more touchpoint to reduce the risk of spreading the illness.
  • Avoid the use of commonly touched items, such as pens, styluses, guest books, light switches, utensils, or cups. Use disposable paper goods if you offer cups or utensils. 
  • If the family wants a guest book, provide a hand sanitizing station directly next to it and hang signage that promotes cleaning hands right after signing the book.
  • If at all possible, have one person sign the book for everyone or use a digital QR code that allows guests to provide their information from their own phone

Disinfection 

All funeral homes must use proper disinfection procedures before, during, and after a funeral. It’s more important than ever that the funeral home is disinfected frequently. This includes all high-touch areas, such as near the casket, the bathroom, the guest book, and any chairs that remain in the funeral home.

The funeral home should have as few chairs as possible, only leaving those that can easily be disinfected after use. The chairs should follow the social distancing rules – placing them at least 6 feet apart and keeping them staggered as much as possible so there isn’t a direct path from each person for germs to spread.

All disinfection products used should be EPA-registered so that you know it eradicates the virus. Most standing cleaning products aren’t enough. At Eco Bear, we are happy to help you with your disinfection services. Whether you need services before a funeral, after, or advice on who to keep the area as disinfected as possible while a family is at the funeral, we are here to help you.

Livestreaming a Funeral

If you have family and friends that don’t fall under the 10 people rule that reside in the same house, you can still offer them the chance to say their goodbyes. Many funeral homes today already have the equipment set up to live stream the event. If you come across a funeral home that doesn’t’ offer it, you can always use programs such as Zoom or Vimeo to keep your family members and friends involved in the funeral. 

Transferring the Body

Funeral homes need to take special precautions when dealing with the transfer of a body, whether or not the person died of COVID-19. When the funeral staff member comes to the home, if applicable, isolate all infected individuals in the home and everyone should wear a face-covering even if they don’t have any symptoms. 

Everyone should keep a 6-foot distance from the funeral staff member while he removes the body from the home. The face of the deceased should be covered with a face mask or other fabric covering to prevent the spread of any infected air that may come out of the body upon transportation.