More Questions and Answers – Updated April 3, 6, 7, 2020
- For families and bereavement sector licensees (funeral, transfer, burial, cremation, alternate disposition)
Please refer to the BAO’s COVID-19 Ready…together web section for more information.
Q1. How many people can attend a funeral, visitation or at a cemetery?
A1. Currently, 10 is the maximum for the entire funeral home, not counting funeral home staff. We also encourage families and funeral home operators to have even fewer people than 10 for funerals and visitations throughout the entire funeral home. See the Registrar’s Directive of April 7.
This directive also applies to cemeteries – graveyards, mausoleums, columbariums and crematoriums across the Ontario bereavement sector. Some cemeteries have closed to the public, but are continuing doing burials. This is the right of the cemetery operator. Safety first.
Consider what happened in Newfoundland, where 75 per cent of COVID-19 cases in the entire province have been traced to one funeral home. Now all funerals and visitations have been banned there.
Things may change, quickly. If the BAO’s funeral home licensees can’t keep up safely with the demand – funerals will be put on hold.
We have not reached that point. We hope that measure will not be needed. We are confident that funeral homes will be able to meet the demand, even as the COVID-19 surge increases. Our licensees are professionals.
Q2. Can I delay my loved one’s funeral?
A2. It is not recommended at this time. Funerals, burials and cremations must proceed as soon as possible. Celebrations of life can be deferred.
*But we remind people that burials, cremations and alternate dispositions must proceed immediately during this time. Please understand that this is a state of emergency.
Q3. Do funeral homes and others in the bereavement sector have enough personal protective equipment (PPE)?
A3. We know that the bereavement sector will need more PPE – and very soon – as COVID-19 surges in Ontario, Canada and the world.
The BAO has made this very clear to the Ontario government. We have been very impressed with the government’s response to this unprecedented state of emergency. We know they are working hard to provide PPE to the bereavement sector. We also understand that there is huge demand for PPE at hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and in the entire health care system.
Q4. What PPE practices are followed at cemeteries, funeral homes, crematoriums and by all bereavement sector operators and staff during COVID-19?
A4. The BAO’s previously posted Routine Practices in the Bereavement Care Setting covers this. Now, more than ever, vigilance on the use of personal protective equipment is needed.
Q5. Is it safe to attend a funeral or visitation?
Q5. Is it safe to attend a funeral or visitation?
A5. Yes, provided you follow the rules:
- Face masks
- Gloves or hand sanitizer
- Physical distancing of two metres (six feet) apart from all other people; and,
- No more than 10 people in the entire funeral home, not counting funeral home staff.
Q6. Can I hug my deceased family member?
A6. That is not advisable. People should also stay at least two metres (six feet) away from the body of their loved one. We know how difficult this is on families and friends of the deceased. Please understand this is a state of emergency and your safety is number one.
Q7. What are the expected practices at cemeteries in Ontario during the pandemic?
A7. The expected practices at cemeteries during the COVID-19 pandemic are that:
- Funeral directors and funeral establishment operators must ensure that there are only 10 or fewer attendees. at the funeral/ visitation.
- All paperwork and authorizations have been received, electronically or with minimum physical contact.
- There is no contact between mourners and funeral or cemetery staff, including pallbearers.
- Caskets/containers are to be placed on lowering devices by funeral staff, and preferably not family or mourners. Only then will the cemetery operations staff approach the grave to fill it in.
Q8. Are cemeteries remaining open?
A8. Yes, cemeteries must stay open to conduct burials, as directed by the BAO. But they are permitted to close their facilities to the public at this time. Cemeteries, crematoriums and alternate disposition services, are required to be ready to provide their services 24/7 during this time.
Q9. Are cemeteries included in the government’s list of closed public spaces, and are they shut down?
A9. Cemeteries are not shut down. Many cemetery operators have chosen to close the cemetery to the public in order to comply with the Premier of Ontario’s Order and to maintain control of access but they continue to do burials (see previous answer).. Cemetery operators have the authority to restrict access, under the current circumstance, and can require the number of attendees to be fewer than 10. The BAO supports additional reasonable measures our cemeteries have put in place to keep families and staff safe. If staff get infected by the COVID-19 virus, their lives are threatened and they can’t work for two weeks or more, which would close the operation of cemeteries – especially the many smaller ones across the province. Their services are even more important now.
Q10. Should people continue to visit their deceased loved ones at the cemetery during this time?
A10. Our strong recommendation is for people not to visit the cemetery at this time. We know this poses an inconvenience on families. Unfortunately, it is a necessary measure. We have also advised our bereavement licensees (funeral, transfer service, cemetery, crematorium, alternate disposition) and families, that they are not to hug, kiss or touch a deceased loved one who has died from COVID-19. This is a state of emergency with measures aimed at stopping the spread of the COVID-19 Virus and reducing the numbers of deaths in Ontario.