Even in grief, the rules of hand hygiene and social isolation apply.
That’s what thousands of funeral directors learned Monday when they joined a Facebook livestream to hear firsthand from the U.S. Centers for Disease, Control, and Prevention how coronavirus will change how Americans die and are buried.
The new disease, which has killed more than 6,500 people worldwide since it emerged in China in late 2019, has put an end to social gatherings around the world. In the United States, the CDC advised organizers to cancel or postpone any events of 50 or more people for the next eight weeks across the country. This extends to “large funerals,” said David Berendes, an epidemiologist with the CDC. (It also applies to weddings, which should also be canceled.)
Other countries are grappling with similar issues. In Italy, which has Europe’s largest elderly population, 300 people died on Monday alone, according to the New York Times. Morgues are overflowing and funerals are illegal after the country banned civil and religious ceremonies outright to stop the spread of the disease.
Berendes recommended digital solutions to the mortician’s dilemma: “If livestreaming and limiting events to immediate family is possible, we encourage that,” he said. For those who do visit funeral homes, Berendes recommends having hand sanitizer at the ready and staggering funeral services so that different families don’t overlap.
The CDC told thousands of funeral directors this morning that it is time to start canceling funerals and livestreaming them instead https://t.co/e3bSuFNCME
— Jason Koebler (@jason_koebler) March 16, 2020