Washington state is now limiting funeral attendees to immediate relatives only to comply with social distancing guidelines advised by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The new rules say that if you wish to comfort relatives at the funerals, you must also stay six feet apart.
In guidance sent to funeral, embalmer, and cemetery licensees, the Washington Department of Licensing said “licensed funeral homes and cemeteries may conduct funeral services in a funeral home or graveside under the following conditions: funerals are only attended by immediate family members of the deceased and the family members in attendance must maintain proper social distancing, defined by the Centers for Disease Control as staying six feet apart.”
The CDC has previously urged mourners in the United States and around the world to livestream funerals to avoid large gatherings.
The CDC said during webinar with the National Funeral Directors Association earlier this month that there is no evidence that the living can contract coronavirus from those who have died from it. Though, the health agency warned that “people should consider not touching the body of someone who has died of COVID-19.”
Dr. David Berendes, an epidemiologist at the CDC, told Newsweek that funerals should be limited to close relatives and streamed online for other mourners.
“As you think about planning for the event, limit the number of people if possible, use live-streaming options and perhaps have only immediately family on hand,” he said. “While you’re at the event, promote social distancing etiquette, hand hygiene and try to limit other people coming in and out.”
Many funeral homes had began offering this service even before the coronavirus pandemic, though it will likely become more popular now.
In Italy, the second most affected country after China, funerals have been banned. “Instead, priests are allowed to say a simple prayer during burials attended by just a few people,” the Newsweek report notes.
Washington had reported a total of 3,723 cases and 175 deaths as of Saturday afternoon.