Covid-19 Impact on Funeral Homes and Cemeteries

Funeral Homes

As of March 19, 2020, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania mandated that funerals be attended by no more than ten (10) people, which includes funeral home staff and clergy, so may, in fact, mean only 5 people.

Funeral directors can choose to do less. Some are allowing no gatherings of any kind. Most are enforcing the wearing of masks, 6-foot distancing, etc.

Bodies can be transferred and embalmed using proper protective equipment, but again, funeral directors can choose to do less. Some are refusing to embalm or allow any viewing including ID (identification) viewing.

Funeral homes (and hospitals and morgues) can hold embalmed or refrigerated bodies for months. If they run out of room, they can rent refrigerated units or refuse to take more bodies. However, we strongly recommend that you consider not storing the body. If you are not allowed to view the body now, you will not be able to (or want to) in a few months. Allow cremation or a simple burial now and have a memorial service later.

When possible, arrangements should be made by phone, email, Skype, FaceTime, etc.

Most religious institutions are closed and not available for services.

Depending on location, cemeteries and crematories may start running behind and it is possible that there will be a wait for body disposition. Over time, things may change.

Cemeteries

Cemeteries are conducting burials but setting their own restrictions. Some are allowing few, one or no attendees at burials.

National cemeteries are closed to visitors but open for burials.

Veteran’s cemeteries are open for burials for veterans and eligible individuals but are not allowing services or military honors and are only allowing immediate family members (fewer than 10) to be present.

Guidance

Shop around. As stated above, funeral homes are making their own rules about what they will and will not do. They are also very busy which means they are less inclined to be flexible.

Make sure the funeral homes email you a copy of their price list.

After discussing arrangements, make sure they email you the estimate.

Strongly consider direct cremation ($750+) now and a memorial service later. If cremation is absolutely not an option, consider Immediate Burial ($1,095+) and a memorial service later.

If you are not allowed to have a real viewing or can only have 1-5 people see the body:

  • Do not give permission for the funeral home embalm the body. It is not needed and is an additional expense.
  • Don’t let them charge you for a viewing as this is a fraction of the time and effort typically required. If they insist on charging, ask for the charge for an identification viewing or private family viewing.

Since you are not allowed a funeral service at the funeral home, do not fall for paying for a memorial service to be held at a later date. Once the body is cremated or buried, there is no need to have the memorial service at a funeral home, nor should you want to pay their exorbitant rates for the use of their often less than spectacular spaces. Have the memorial service at a religious institution, club, home, garden, park, restaurant, etc.

Check the vehicle charges. If there is no service and only 1-5 people attending graveside, no need for the rented hearse. Ask them to use the service vehicle and meet you at the cemetery. No processional and only 1-5 people means no need for a limo, take your own car. Also, no processional means no need for a second vehicle.

If they do not want to let you see the body, you can try to force them. You can also ask the funeral director to take pictures or a video.

If you are allowed a limited viewing or graveside service, consider recording or live streaming for those who cannot be there. You can also choose to pay the funeral home to do this.

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