A Statement from R. Bryant Hightower Jr., CFSP, President of the National Funeral Directors Association:
Recommendations for Safe Funeral Gatherings During Pandemic
Brookfield, Wis. – The importance of having a funeral to honor the deceased and giving loved ones an opportunity to celebrate that life and begin to grieve is unquestioned. While the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) is deeply committed to promoting the value of a funeral, the unprecedented novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic requires the funeral profession to balance its long-held values with the need to: flatten the curve of the pandemic; protect the health of attendees, funeral home staff and clergy/celebrant; and reduce the potential for community spread and mass-fatalities.
Therefore, the association recommends that funeral homes limit the size of services to no more than 10 of the decedent’s next-of-kin until further notice. This is the recommendatiom of the CDC and National Funeral Directors Association.
Due to confusion regarding the number of people permitted to attend a wake, funeral, or burial service in Connecticut, the Governor's Office and the Department of Public Health (DPH) clarified the Governor's Executive Order limiting the number of people attending social gatherings to specifically address the number of persons permitted at a wake, funeral, or burial service. Recently, the Governor's Office issued an update and it states:
"Religious, spiritual or worship gatherings are restricted to 49 or fewer people, and proper distancing measures shall be observed. (A religious, spiritual, or worship gathering includes a wake, funeral or burial service)."
While a "legal limit" during this public health emergency for people attending a wake, funeral, or burial service is currently 49 in Connecticut, provided proper distancing protocols can be observed (i.e., a minimum of 6 feet between each person), funeral homes should carefully consider whether allowing such a large number of persons at a wake, funeral, or burial service is prudent given the current health crisis in the State, and in light of President Trump's request to limit social gatherings to no more than ten (10) people - inclusive of funeral home staff and clergy.
It is our recommendation that you respect the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, adhere to social distancing rules and limit the amount of people at any service.
Issuing this recommendation is a serious step – one NFDA leaders never imagined taking. However, in light of the rising rate of infection and increasing deaths, it is a step they felt was necessary to prevent community spread of and deaths due to COVID-19. NFDA recognizes this limit will be very difficult for families who are grieving the death of a loved one, but asks for their understanding during this challenging time. Funeral directors will continue to do all they can to help families understand the options they have for commemorating the life of a loved one
in a manner that is safe for everyone involved.
This guidance is based on “The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America” developed to slow the spread of COVID-19. NFDA urges funeral directors to follow these recommendations for the safety of their funeral home’s staff and the families and community they serve. NFDA will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as necessary
NFDA’s Specific Recommendations
Unless a state’s guidelines are more restrictive, NFDA strongly recommends that, until further notice, funerals be limited to no more than 10 of the decedent’s next-of-kin; this does not include funeral home staff, the clergy/celebrant or cemetery staff. NFDA also recommends services be held at the gravesite whenever possible; however, the nature of the disposition, such cremation, may mean a service in the funeral home is more appropriate. Funeral homes should also encourage attendees to follow current social distancing guidelines by setting up seating accordingly.
We understand this is all very confusing. The State, State association (CFDA) and National association (NFDA) can't seem to get on the same page. Our focus is on you and your family, our staff and their families, and how we can provide a dignified and honorable service for your loved one. We will offer options for a private visitation for your immediate family in our funeral home, providing you a safe and comfortable place to say goodbye. We will arrange a graveside service or cremation service that will honor your loved one the way they deserve to be remembered. Trust us to guide you through these difficult decisions so that you can begin to heal. Our family has been serving families for over 90 years. The service we provide has never been more important than it is now. We are here for you!