COVID-19 has changed the way we all live, including the way we hold funerals. With the continual guidelines to social distance and avoid large crowds, holding a traditional funeral just isn’t possible today. You have options, though. 

Although the CDC recommendations as well as the President’s guidelines limit groups to 10 or less, even that can be risky. Some families have immediate family members only attend the funeral, but others want everyone to have some closure, which leads to the possibility of webcasting and live streaming funerals.

Before we discuss live streaming funerals, it’s important to address the risk of attending a funeral of someone that died of COVID-19. 

At this time, the CDC isn’t aware of any risk of attending a funeral or being near a body that died of COVID-19. However, they also suggest avoiding any contact with the body just to be safe. If any contact is initiated, it should be AFTER the body has been prepared and anyone that touches the body should immediately wash his/her hands and avoid touching his/her face or any other surfaces until they wash their hands.

This suggestion is even more imperative for those ages 65 and over, pregnant women, and anyone with a weakened immune system or chronic illness, as people in these categories are at higher risk of catching COVID-19 and no one is 100% certain if COVID can spread from the deceased. 

Precautions at Funerals

If you do attend/have a funeral, it should be limited to immediate family members that live in the same household with a maximum of 10 people in attendance. Since crying produces more nasal secretions and nasal secretions are what pass the virus to others, the risk of spreading COVID-19 is very high at funerals. 

If you do have a funeral, the only people that should be allowed attendance in addition to immediate household family members are any necessary funeral service staff and one priest, pastor, or other religious leader. In addition, anyone in attendance must be healthy and not showing any symptoms of the illness.

In addition, the following guidelines should be followed:

  • All ‘staff’ members and family members should observe social distancing of at least six feet
  • Anyone that has any symptoms including a fever, cough, sore throat, sore muscles, and loss of taste/smell should stay home
  • Anyone with COVID-19 that hasn’t isolated themselves for at least 14 days and isn’t symptom-free should stay home
  • There should be easy access to handwashing stations or hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol throughout the funeral home
  • Extra tissues and garbage cans should be placed throughout the funeral home
  • Avoid use of the guest registry book if at all possible
  • If users do sign the guestbook, consider appointing one family member to sign the names for each guest
  • Have hand sanitizer at the guestbook station
  • Encourage use of digital guest books and let guests sign it with their mobile phone using a QR code provided by you
  • No hugging or handshakes
  • Keep the door open to let fresh air through and to avoid excessive touching of the door handles

Any chairs in the funeral home should be at least six feet apart and use should be sparing since funeral homes can’t effectively disinfect chairs. 

In order to best avoid the risk of spreading COVID-19 at funerals, live streaming of the funeral should be offered for others that would like to be in attendance but can’t risk it. 

How Does Webcasting or Livestreaming a Funeral Work?

Webcasting a funeral requires special online programming, of which there are many programs. Many companies offer this option, especially in the face of COVID-19. It’s similar to a live stream you may have attended for a church service or a home concert today. The camera is set up in the funeral home or church and the services are streamed live so that everyone can attend from the comfort of their own home without putting anyone at risk.

What Are the Benefits?

Livestreaming or webcasting a funeral offers a variety of benefits. In the face of COVID-19, we all have to follow the federal and state guidelines, most of which require us to limit groups to 10 or less. The restrictions are even stricter should anyone be at risk of carrying or having COVID-19. For example, if anyone has been in contact with someone with the illness, they shouldn’t be around others. Technically, they should isolate themselves for 14 days. Who should attend the funeral and who shouldn’t gets rather difficult. You want everyone to have closure, but that may not be possible in person.

Webcasting gives everyone the chance to:

  • Feel like a part of the celebration. The webcast doesn’t just focus on the casket itself. It takes in the entire ceremony including the lecture provided by the officiant and the eulogies or speeches given by anyone in attendance. The webcast or livestream should span the entire atmosphere, giving you the feeling that you are in attendance even from your own home.
  • Isolate yourself if you are at risk. If you have any signs of the disease or just aren’t feeling well, it’s best to stay home and take care of yourself. This avoids the risk of spreading COVID-19, even if you haven’t been tested and are unsure if you have it.
  • You reduce your risk of exposure. Since we can’t know 100% if anyone you are in contact with was exposed to COVID-19, it’s important to reduce your own exposure. With the ability to have closure while watching the funeral online, you can grieve your loss while ensuring that you stay safe in the comfort of your own home.

Notes About Webcasting

It’s important to note that you shouldn’t use Facebook or YouTube to webcast a funeral. They are both restricted with music copyrights and current lawsuits, which means certain music that you play at the service may be muted or cut out during the webcast. 

Even though the NFDA worked hard to get this restriction lifted for the sake of families during the COVID-19 crisis, they were unsuccessful. The NFDA highly recommends the use of other services, whether provided by the funeral home itself or using Zoom, Vimeo, or other services that don’t have copyright issues and allow you to play any music on its system. 

Other Considerations

Even though webcasting a funeral may feel less ‘personal,’ there are still ways to make important people feel involved. 

  • Through the use of Skype or other online portals, you can have anyone close to the deceased give a eulogy. This is even possible for those that are out of town or even out of the country.
  • Visit with the funeral home online, making the arrangements from the comfort of your home to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19
  • Consider just graveside services rather than services in a funeral home. With everyone outside and keeping a proper social distance, the risk of spreading the virus is smaller.

Other Options

You don’t have to hold the funeral immediately during this time, if you’d rather wait until you can have your family and friends around you, there are options:

  • Discuss options for waiting until a later date with the funeral service. They can offer options for body disposition while observing the COVID-19 guidelines.
  • Reserve the viewing and initial funeral for immediate household family members but hold a large memorial service with family and friends once the social distancing guidelines are lifted.

Take Advantage of Funeral Webcasting and Livestreaming

While the feeling may not be 100% the same as attending the service in person, enjoy the ability to still be in ‘attendance’ and getting the closure you need. While it’s incredibly hard not to be with those that we love during a difficult time, the spread will only worsen if we don’t follow the CDC guidelines.

Until there is more immunity to the illness in society, this will be our norm for a while. We are lucky enough to have the technology that can live stream and webcast funerals and should take advantage of it whenever possible. Limiting exposure to those that have been exposed is crucial. Since it’s impossible to tell if someone is carrying the illness without symptoms, we all have to take the necessary precautions.

If you choose not to webcast or live stream, your other options include limiting the viewing to just immediate family members (10 at most), delaying the funeral or holding a memorial service in the future when the guidelines are lifted and the risks are minimal.

There are many options available today, take advantage of the choices that give you the closure and keep you safe. It’s a whole new world we’re living in now, but thanks to technology, we can embrace the opportunities to attend funerals from home, just like we can attend church. Stay safe and well, while we figure out our new normal.