Question 1. What is the maximum number of people permitted at a funeral or visitation?
Answer 1. The maximum permitted is 10 – for the entire funeral home, not counting funeral home staff. Try to have fewer. Follow the rules – Registrar’s Directives, laws, rules, use of personal protective equipment (PPE). You don’t want this in your funeral home, family, or community. Thank you for your work during this pandemic and for following the rules.
Q2. Does the 10-maximum directive apply to the entire cemetery or is it per burial?
A2. The maximum is 10 people per burial, not counting staff. But some cemeteries may have more rigid restrictions. A few cemeteries are now closed to the public and are simply doing the burials without mourners present, which is their right.
The max-10 directive rule also encourages funeral homes and cemeteries to be more strict and have fewer people exposed to possible infection in funeral homes and cemeteries. Remember, the 10 maximum directive for cemeteries relates only to graveside funeral services. Otherwise, the maximum is five people per gathering at the cemetery.
Q3. If we have a company policy to allow only five max in the funeral home, and the family sees on the BAO website that 10 is the max, will the BAO support the funeral home and inform the family that the funeral home can establish its own policy?
A3. The 10-max-or-fewer directive is a maximum. Funeral homes may go lower than 10 people in the funeral home (not counting funeral home staff), and in fact the BAO encourages you to do so.
Q4. How many people can attend a funeral, visitation or at a cemetery?
A4. 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 (in April) were traced to one funeral home. All funerals and visitations were banned in that province because of this.
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.
Q5. Can I delay my loved one’s funeral?
A5. 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 alternative dispositions must proceed immediately during this time. Please understand that this is a state of emergency.
Q6. Is it safe to attend a funeral or visitation?
A6. 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.
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:
- Cemeteries follow the 10-max directive at graveside funeral services, otherwise only gatherings of five people are permitted. 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. Banning of visitors at cemeteries – can government mandate this?
A8. As the pandemic increases, the government can be expected to take additional measures to stop the spread of COVID-19. The cemetery is private property and so an operator can make appropriate restrictions.
The Premier of Ontario’s order has restricted gathering in cemeteries to 10 individuals for graveside funeral services, otherwise only five people may gather together at cemeteries.
Cemeteries can ban visitors, if they choose. The Province is in a State of emergency. As a licensee, you are well within your rights to manage your own establishment in compliance with all applicable laws.