During this time of social distancing, the New York State Department of Health has released guidelines around planning funerals, as life (and death) continue during the battle against the coronavirus.

The department’s recommendations are common-sense measures aimed at keeping New Yorkers safe while offering the deceased a proper memorial and families the time and space to mourn.

“Our country is facing a unique state of crisis with the spread of the coronavirus. While we all may want to celebrate our loved ones’ lives and memorialize them, at this time, we must continue to practice social distancing and limit large public gatherings, including at funeral services,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James, in a statement on Monday.

“Our number one goal should be to limit the spread of this disease and stop more New Yorkers from getting sick.”

The guidelines closely mirror those of the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and are as follows:

  • All large gatherings should be avoided if possible. Otherwise, gatherings must be limited to no more than 50-percent of the maximum capacity of the funeral home or 50 individuals, whichever is lower. This includes wakes, memorial services or other gatherings.
  • Though there is currently no known risk associated with being in the same room with the body of someone who died from COVID-19, people should consider not touching the body. Additionally, individuals who were in close contact with the decedent prior to their passing may themselves be infected with the virus and should not attend funeral services as they may infect others.
  • Funeral home workers should follow their routine infection prevention and control precautions when handling a decedent who died of COVID-19. For transporting a body that has been bagged, workers should disinfect the outside of the bag with an EPA-approved product expected to be effective against COVID-19.

This information is subject to ongoing updates and should be frequently checked. As new guidance and information becomes available the most current information will be posted on the Department’s Novel Coronavirus website here.

If you have any questions, please contact the Bureau of Funeral direction by telephone at 518-402-0785 or by email at funeral.health.ny.gov

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  1. Are cremations being done also? It’s such a difficult time and not being able to spend some time with your loved one is tragic. You feel guilt and helpless when you have to leave them. Not being able to help them, knowing they were alone in their last moments. It sucks! When will this be over?

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