A group of people walking in a park.

COVID-19 FAQ: For bereavement licensees and grieving families

This set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) is written for licensees of the BAO, and provides valuable information for grieving families and the public.

The most frequently asked question:

How many can attend a funeral service?
(funeral, visitation, reception)?

Answer: Indoor

For indoor funeral services across Ontario, the maximum attendance is 30 per cent of room capacity, with two-metres of physical distancing between people, and a one to 10 funeral staff to attendee ratio to ensure all are following the safety rules. And, of course #WearAMask.

Additionally, for indoor services:
There is a prohibition on serving food and beverages at indoor funeral services in the four health unit areas, which the Government of Ontario has placed back into a modified Stage 2. The four areas are: Toronto; Peel; Ottawa; and York. Read the Registrar’s Directive on this, which came into place on Oct. 19, 2020.

Funeral services include: funerals; visitations; and funeral receptions.

Answer: Outdoor

For outdoor funeral services across Ontario there can be a maximum of 100 attendees,
but only if:
a. The service is under the control and direction of a funeral director
b. The service (at the cemetery) has the consent of the cemetery operator for numbers over 25
c. Funeral directors have one staff member for every 10 attendees to properly manage the gathering and ensure physical distancing is maintained
d. Guests are registered/logged to enable contact tracing
Otherwise, if these rules are not followed, the outdoor maximum is 25 attendees.
#WearAMask

FAQ

Q1. Do I need to have a 15-minute waiting period between visitations and/or funerals?

A1. Funeral homes must clean and disinfect between each funeral service, including visitations or receptions.
You should also make sure that washrooms or any areas that were used by people in the previous funeral service or visitation are cleaned and disinfected before the next group enters for another service or visitation.

Q2. How long can we continue with burials at our cemetery this year? (Or can I continue with burials past our cemetery’s bylaws scheduled closing date?)

A2. Burials should continue as long into the fall and winter as possible – while ground conditions permit it.

Q3. In the event of a large visitation, can we have visitors line up outside an entrance (six feet apart, distancing) to wait their turn to enter the funeral home?

A3. Yes, but – Please note that you are responsible to ensure that everyone who is on your property complies with the Premier of Ontario’s Order and BAO Registrar’s Directives regarding COVID-19, which require physical distancing, mask wearing and cleaning your facilities before each group enters your establishment. 
For indoor funeral services, the maximum attendance is 30 per cent of room capacity, with two-metres of physical distancing between people, and a one to 10 funeral staff to attendee ratio to ensure all are following the safety rules.
If there are attendees waiting outside the funeral establishment between visitations while the facility is being disinfected, physical distancing must be maintained and clustering must be prohibited by the funeral home supervising staff. 
Supervision of these attendees is your responsibility and any lapses may result in penalties being imposed by the Public Health Officer, the Province and/or the BAO.

Q4. Since we and/or the family often have no idea how many people might attend, therefore not knowing if we would go beyond the 25 ruling, should there be some sort of ‘invitation/attendance list’? 

A4. Yes, but remember – You, as the provider of the burial service, have the responsibly to advise the person scheduling the service, in advance of the service, that there are strict rules that must be adhered to in order to be in compliance with the Premier of Ontario’s Orders and BAO Registrar’s Directives during the COVID-19 pandemic.
So – yes – there should be an ‘invitation/attendance list’ provided by the person making the arrangements.
Additionally, funeral establishments must have a guest logbook at all funeral services. The logbook would become important should there be a need for contact tracing.

Q5. Can we have 75 people at a graveside cemetery funeral service?

A5. The maximum of attendees at the cemetery for a funeral service is 25. There is an exception permitting a maximum of 100, but there are strict rules that must be followed for this to be allowed.
Read our Sept. 20 Registrar’s Directive, which states: 
“Until further notice, all cemeteries in Ontario must limit attendance to a maximum of 25 people (not counting staff) at all gatherings, attendances, funerals, visitations, funeral receptions, and graveside services, subject to the following exception.
*Exception – Outdoor funeral services (visitations, receptions and graveside services) up to a maximum of 100 attendees may still take place at a cemetery or funeral home’s property, providing:
a. The service is under the control and direction of a funeral director   
b. The service (at the cemetery) has the consent of the cemetery operator for numbers over 25
c. Funeral directors have one staff member for every 10 attendees to properly manage the gathering and ensure physical distancing is maintained
d. Guests are registered/logged to enable contact tracing”  

Q6. How many funeral home staff (and/or funeral directors) must supervise a group of 30 or 100 attendees at a cemetery graveside service?

A6. The ratio is one funeral staff to 10 attendees. So for 30 attendees, three funeral staff would have to supervise. For the maximum of 100 attendees, there would have to be 10 funeral home staff supervising. Supervising means making sure screening information is collected, people are observing physical distancing and wearing masks. Read our Sept. 20 Registrar’s Directive, which is still in place.

Q7. Student question: Hi, Is there a book or online tools to help me study for the funeral exam?  

A7. Check with your college and then please visit sections of our BAO website. We have valuable information for you as a student, such as:
– The Consumer Information Guide 
Education and Training section  
– Several other parts of our website, including these homepage topics in our top menu bar –   
* Registrar’s Actions  
* For Consumers  
* For Professionals, and our
* COVID-19 web index page.
There’s a lot of other parts of our web that students would find informative – plus it offers a glimpse into what is happening in the bereavement sector these days.
Thanks for asking us.