Attending Funerals Requires Care During Pandemic

CDC updates funeral guidance for families
funeral service

More than 40 members of a West Virginia-based family have reportedly been infected with the coronavirus after they gathered for a relative’s funeral last month, reported the Daily Mail on August 11, 2020.

Unfortunately, none of the family members wore face masks before the funeral, during the service, or at the wake.

This outbreak was related to one attendees' husband who had recently tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

After the funeral concluded, the virus ‘spread like wildfire’ among the host family. Each of the 40 coronavirus-stricken family members had to quarantine at home, and several received medical treatment due to worsening conditions.

The lesson learned from this outbreak is to follow the U.S. CDC's updated guidelines to prevent the spreading of any coronavirus.

On July 25, 2020, the CDC said anyone holding funeral services should do so in large, well-ventilated areas or outdoors, as circumstances and traditions allow. And discuss with the funeral home officiant, and your family, any potential changes that might be necessary to protect all of the participants and attendees.

There are many different cultural traditions involved in the bereavement process, including some that involve touching the deceased person’s body before preparation. 

Though the CDC is still learning about how COVID-19 spreads, it may be possible that you could get COVID-19 by touching the body of a deceased person who had confirmed or suspected COVID-19 prior to the body being prepared for viewing.

After the body has been prepared for viewing, there may be less of a chance of the virus spreading from certain types of touching, such as holding the hand or hugging.

If the deceased person had confirmed or suspected COVID-19, avoid kissing, washing, or shrouding the body before, during, and after the body has been prepared, if possible.

Also, people who have been living in the same household can comfort each other in typical ways such as hugging, holding hands, and sitting next to each other. Attendees should nod, bow, or wave instead of holding or shaking hands, hugging, or kissing anyone who does not live in their household.

And attendees who do not live in the same household should stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart and wear a cloth face covering when interacting with people who do not live in their household.

Furthermore, if the deceased person had confirmed or suspected COVID-19, follow CDC guidelines to clean and disinfect the home and any items that will be removed from the home.

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