Regardless of whether the deceased has passed from COVID-19, funeral homes have a much more delicate situation than usual in working with families during the coronavirus outbreak.
We reached out to Wellesley’s funeral homes to see how they are handling this.
Marianne Burke of Henry J. Burke & Sons Funeral Home wrote: “You are correct, the way in which we are serving our community in this time has been affected. Because of the social distancing practices and the restrictions placed on people gathering in groups over 10, traditional funerals have been put on hold.”
However, Burke Family Funeral Homes, which has locations in Wellesley and Newton, are still able to transfer loved ones who have passed to the funeral home. Cremations and burials with small graveside gatherings are still taking place.
“Many families are choosing to plan memorial services for later in the spring when things calm down. In the meantime, we are happy to answer any questions that families may have if they believe they will need our services in the near future,” Burke says. The funeral home has begun working with a local company to offer live streaming.
Those visiting the website for George F. Doherty & Sons Funeral Homes, which has locations in Wellesley and 3 other communities, will be greeted with a letter from the owners and staff that reads in part:
“Given the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to know that funeral directors throughout Massachusetts are taking precautions to limit exposure to the coronavirus. We are still operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week making certain that those entrusted to our care and the families we serve are receiving uninterrupted service and attention, regardless of the cause of death…”
Doherty & Sons funeral directors are working with bereaved families “to create meaningful services that fall within the Governor’s emergency order of limiting large public gatherings.” One option to include those who can’t attend due to travel complications or crowd size limitations is a live-streamed funeral via a private YouTube account.
Both funeral homes offer online obituaries and guestbooks.
Perusing the obituaries, you’ll see somber and heartbreaking lines such as “Due to the current coronavirus concerns, services will be private,” and “Due to the increased concern over the Covid-19 virus, in an effort to keep people safe, the family respectfully decided to keep wake and funeral services private.”
State and national guidance
The state and national funeral director trade associations have been on top of this situation as well, and have passed along guidance to “death care professionals.” One noteworthy development is that the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has named mortuary workers as “critical infrastructure workers,” according to the Massachusetts Funeral Directors Association, that this group has called on the Commonwealth to follow suit if sheltering in place goes into effect.
The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) points to CDC guidance on funerals of those who have died of COVID-19: “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.” However, the CDC also notes, “People should consider not touching the body of someone who has died of COVID-19.”
Currently, bodies of deceased who had COVID-19 can be buried or cremated, but the NFDA advises funeral directors to stay current on this.
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