March 28, 2020. Updated May 5, 2020
On April 22, 2020, Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli issued Executive Directive No: 20-010.
- Funeral homes are strongly encouraged to provide only Direct Cremation or Immediate Burial, regardless of cause of death.
- Funeral homes are strongly discouraged from embalming.
- No open casket in-person viewings, visitations or ceremonies, regardless of cause of death.
- Viewings, visitations or ceremonies with closed caskets are permitted, but must comply with limitations on gatherings.
- This is currently 10 people including funeral home staff. Most are enforcing the wearing of masks, 6-foot distancing, etc. Funeral directors can choose to do less. Some are allowing no gatherings of any kind.
- Human remains may not be stored or otherwise held for future memorialization.
- Funeral homes may not deny services based upon cause of death.
- If a funeral home is over capacity and unable to take body, they must immediately identify and contact at least one other funeral home in another county to refer to. If a funeral home cannot be found, the body can be transferred to the designated State Temporary Morgue.
When possible, arrangements should be made remotely; by phone, email, Skype, FaceTime, etc.
Most religious institutions are closed and not available for services.
Depending on your location, cemeteries and crematories may start running behind and it is possible that there will be a wait for body disposition.
If few or no people are allowed at the funeral home or cemetery, ask a family member or the funeral director to live stream the burial or record for future viewing.
Cemeteries have their own restrictions. Some are shut down to visitors. Some are allowing few or no attendees at burials.
National cemeteries are closed to visitors but open to funeral directors 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 people including funeral home and/or cemetery staff).
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.
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 the grave site, a religious institution, club, home, garden, park, library, 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 convince them. If unsuccessful, ask the funeral director to take pictures or a video.