Q. Am I at risk if I go to a funeral or visitation service for someone who died of COVID-19? A. There is currently no known risk associated with being in the same room at a funeral or visitation service with the body of someone who died of COVID-19. Q. Am I at risk if I touch someone who died of COVID-19 after their death? A. Health risks to caregivers are minimal when following best practices that we use when dealing with any kind of infectious disease, such as influenza or even the common cold. We have learned a great deal about the virus since it began in early 2020.
COVID-19 is spread from close contact (i.e., within about 6 feet) with a person who is currently sick with COVID-19. The virus spreads through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory infections spread. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. This type of spread is not a concern after death.
Older people and people of all ages with severe underlying health conditions are at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness. The virus may spread from certain types of touching, such as holding the hand or hugging after the body has been prepared for viewing and then touch one’s own face, moth, or nose. People conducting bathing and dressing of a deceased body that was infected with the Covid-19 virus may wear protective gear or personal protective equipment (PPE, (such as disposable gown, face shield or goggles and facemask) to avoid transmission from droplets when moving the body that may be released.
Cleaning should be conducted in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products (e.g., concentration, application method and contact time, etc.). Products with EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens claims are expected to be effective against COVID-19 based on data for harder to kill viruses. After removal of PPE, perform hand hygiene by washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. Soap and water should be used if the hands are visibly soiled.
Q. What do Funeral Home workers need to know about handling decedents who had COVID-19? A. A funeral or visitation service can be held for a person who has died of COVID-19. Funeral home workers should follow their routine infection prevention and control precautions when handling a decedent who died of COVID-19.
After cleaning and removal of personal protective equipment, perform hand hygiene by washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water is not available. Soap and water should be used if the hands are visibly soiled.
Decedents with COVID-19 can be buried or cremated. [See full CDC Covid-19 Guidelines for additional guidance to Funeral Home staff on disinfecting body bags, embalming, and other technical procedures.]
Landscape photos courtesy of Sean Proll Justin Craig All Rights Reserved
Washington Funeral Resources and Education is a non-commercial public interest site dedicated to helping Washington consumers care for their own dead with or without the assistance of a funeral director. See FuneralPartnership.org for more state funeral information. This site is maintained as a project of White Eagle Memorial Preserve and Sacred Earth Foundation, which coordinates responses to inquiries with other Washington-based organizations and practitioners that support the mission of the Funeral Partnership.
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