A guy is walking his dog in a park. A couple is sitting down on a bench.

Registrar’s Directive: New temporary rules for funeral services

Effective Jan. 5, 2022

Evolving data shows that while the Omicron variant is less severe, it is highly transmissible, which exposes the funeral sector to staffing shortages. This could quickly impact their capacity to provide death care for decedents and serve families. 

Funerals are high-risk events for the transmission of COVID. They involve close contact, touching, consoling, tears, and runny noses. They are often held in confined spaces with health-compromised people and seniors present. 

The Funeral and Transfer Service Advisory Committee, Ontario Funeral Service Association (OFSA) and Ontario Association of Cemetery and Funeral Professionals (OACFP) were consulted on the following temporary measures, which are intended to reduce the risk of infection for funeral providers and their staff and will complement the government’s temporarily moving the province into Step Two of its Roadmap to Reopen with modifications starting Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022.

Effective Wednesday, Jan. 5, this Registrar’s Directive replaces and supersedes previous COVID-19 directives. These measures will be in effect for 21 days (until Jan. 26, 2022.)

Staffing

Different from our past practice, the strategy to protect funeral staff is based on these principles:

  1. Use as few staff as possible to conduct services. There is no longer a minimum staff requirement.
  2. Have as little contact with families and guests as possible.
  3. Segregate staff into teams, if possible, to prevent cross-transmission. If one team is infected and off-line, the other team remains available.
  4. Upgrade PPE, specifically masks, to N95 or equivalent if available.

Indoor Funeral Services

Attendance at funerals and visitations will be limited to 50 per cent capacity of a particular room with physical distancing of two metres, regardless of vaccination status.

Visitations of no more than 50 per cent capacity of a particular room may be held, but must be pre-scheduled and conducted by appointment to prevent line-ups or congestion.

Face coverings are required to be worn by everyone.

Physical distancing of two metres must always be maintained.

Staff must be actively screened for infection, and all guests must be passively screened.

Thorough cleaning and disinfection procedures must be conducted on an on-going basis and specifically between funerals and visitations.

Food and beverages are prohibited; however, box lunches can be made available for guests to take away off the premises. On-site coffee and beverage dispensers should be disabled.

Only two people plus funeral staff may attend in-person arrangements conferences. Others may attend virtually or via phone.

Funerals are not to be delayed more than five days, and decedents must be picked-up from the provincial morgue as soon as possible.

Cremation

Cremation witnessing is limited to a maximum of five persons plus staff.

Outdoor / Graveside Services

Outdoor funerals and graveside services are limited to the number of people that can maintain two metres of physical distance.

Physical distancing of two metres must always be maintained.

If a funeral licensee has been contracted to provide services at the cemetery, then the funeral director is responsible to ensure that the services are provided in accordance with this directive, such as ensuring physical distancing.

Drive-Thru visitations, as per the June 10, 2020 directive, continue to be permitted and encouraged. 

All bereavement sector businesses may provide additional restrictions at their facilities. The BAO supports this as usual.

We thank all licensees for adhering to COVID-19 restrictions throughout the pandemic.

-Carey Smith, CEO & Registrar, BAO