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Coronavirus Safety Tips: Taking Precautions When Attending a Funeral

By COVID-19, Current Events

Recently, the United States officially declared the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) a national emergency. National, state, and local officials are hoping to slow the spread of the disease in order to prevent overwhelming the healthcare system and its resources. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that the virus seems to spread from person-to-person contact, which means people have to take precautions during events like funerals.  

If you are attending a funeral during this outbreak, here are six precautions you can take to ensure you and your family remain healthy

1. Practice Social Distancing

Although officials are unsure how the virus behaves, they believe it spreads through close contact with someone who is sick. That’s why many people are choosing to practice social distancing, which is defined as “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.”  

Since a funeral or memorial can involve a lot of people in close contact, you can try to sit further apart from others if there is enough space. Additionally, instead of hugs and handshakes, offer kind words and sympathy notes to those who are grieving.

2. Cover Your Mouth When You Cough

Officials also believe the virus can spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Covering your mouth with your arm or a handkerchief can prevent the spread of these droplets. The CDC does not recommend using a face mask if you are not sick. However, if you think you have the virus, wearing a mask can prevent your coughs from infecting others. Face masks may be limited, so if you are healthy, the best thing you can do is avoid coming into contact with someone who might be sick. 

3. Wash Hands Thoroughly and Regularly

Washing your hands is important to prevent the spread of any virus, including COVID-19. Germs can collect on your hands if you touch a surface that someone with the disease has also touched. Thorough and regular handwashing is an easy way to prevent the disease from spreading. When you attend a service, don’t be afraid to ask the funeral home staff where you can wash your hands. This should be done before and after the service to help maintain cleanliness.

4. Avoid Large Gatherings

Avoiding those who may be sick is key to slowing the spread of the disease. The CDC, along with federal, state, and local officials, are urging or mandating restrictions on social gatherings to “flatten the curve.” However, grieving people will still need the support of loved ones during a time of loss. Small gatherings or visits with the immediate family may still be possible in some areas that are least affected. Staggered events can also ensure that not too many people are gathered at the same time in the same place. Be sure to follow federal, state, and local recommendations and mandates to help keep everyone healthy and safe. If you cannot attend a funeral or memorial event, here are a few ways you can show your support for the grieving family.

5. Stay Home if You Are Sick

Staying home if you are sick or suspect you may have been exposed to the virus is paramount to stopping the spread of the disease. If you or a loved one were exposed to the virus, proceed with an abundance of caution. Stay home and make every effort to limit contact with others in your community. At this time, the CDC believes that infection is most likely once symptoms are present; however, they do state that some spread might be possible before people show symptoms. 

6. Follow Directions of Funeral Home Staff

Finally, follow the directions of the funeral home and staff. The funeral home may recommend limiting the size of public gatherings, postponing events, or live streaming events with only immediate family present, depending on how prevalent the outbreak is in your area. Some funeral homes are limiting their number of visitations and funeral services to one per day so they can ensure minimal exposure to others. If these services are held, the funeral home staff will likely take precautions such as holding open doors to limit your contact with surfaces, having one person sign register books, or offering electronic options. The funeral home may also limit the use of printed programs or other items. Alternatively, they may schedule funeral arrangement meetings over the phone or other technology to limit person-to-person contact.  

Remember, the needs of the grieving family for love and support during a time of grief don’t go away. If you can attend a funeral, show up! Even if you can’t offer hugs, your presence is more than enough.

What to Do If You Can’t Attend the Funeral

By COVID-19, Current Events, Helping a Friend in Grief

There are numerous factors that can lead you to miss an important event like a funeral. The outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is one factor that may be at the forefront of your mind, especially recently. In the wake of this relatively unknown disease, you want to ensure you and your family are taking proper precautions and following specific guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and federal, state, and local recommendations and mandates.  

Funeral homes are doing all they can to minimize exposure to others, such as limiting the size of the services, holding one service per day, and/or properly sanitizing the establishment after each gathering. Funeral attendees can also do their part by practicing social distancing, frequent handwashing, and even avoiding large gatherings. However, depending on your health status, state and local restrictions, and your household’s risk level, you may simply be unable to physically attend a funeral. If you must stay home, here are four ways you can provide comfort and encouragement to the family and friends of the person who has died. 

 1. Ask if the service will be recorded or streamed online. 

As mentioned above, some funeral homes will limit the number of people attending a service so that they comply with the CDC guidelines. If that’s the case, a virtual or digital viewing experience may be your best option. The good news is that some funeral homes can stream the service live on Facebook or other technology. You can call the funeral home to ask if that option will be available for the service, and then ask how you can view the stream from the comfort of your home 

 2. Write a note to encourage the family and friends who have lost a loved one.

Though it seems simple, a heartfelt note can make a huge difference to someone who is grieving. It only takes a few minutes to make someone feel like they are not alone and to show that you care. You can do this through a sympathy card, social media post, email, or text. If you want some tips, here are a few recommendations for writing a meaningful condolence letter 

3. Give a sympathy gift.

There are many ways to show someone that you care apart from handwritten notes or letters. Gifts are always encouraged, especially if they are tailored to the recipient. If you can’t drop off a gift in person, you can send flowers or have a gift delivered to the family. You may also consider making a charitable donation in the name of the person who died. If you’d like more ideas for meaningful sympathy gifts, click here 

4. Check in regularly on those who are grieving. 

You might not be able to be present with your grieving friend in person, but you can always check in with a phone call, text, or note through social media letting them know you are thinking of them. The process of grief will last longer than the virus. Continue to support your friends and family members during this time to show that you care. With every thoughtful note or check-in, no matter how brief, your grieving friend will feel supported and loved throughout their grief journey.  

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