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Funerals and Memorial Services

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have to limit the number of people who can get together. This has made it difficult to come together in-person to grieve.
Last updated: February 5, 2021
At this time, funerals may proceed with a limited number of people and a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place. You can have a maximum of 10 people attend, including the officiant. However, no additional gatherings such as receptions either proceeding or following the ceremony can occur at this timeLearn more about the current province-wide restrictions.

Remember: the things we need to do to keep people safe are not forever, but they are very important for now, to protect everyone’s health. There will be a time when we can all come together again.

Organizing a funeral or memorial service

When someone dies and you need to look after their affairs, you will need to make decisions about what to do next. The After a Death website can help you through this process. Find out the first steps, discover support options, and learn about funerals and wills. 

There are some simple things that people can to do to plan a funeral or memorial service during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Make sure anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 or who needs to self-isolate stays home 

Anyone who feels sick should stay home. If you think you have symptoms of COVID-19, use the Ministry of Health’s online self-assessment tool at covid19.thrive.health or call 8-1-1 to determine if you need further assessment for COVID-19 testing by a health-care provider or at a local collection centre. Read more about what to do if you feel sick here. Anyone who has travelled outside of Canada in the last 14 days needs to stay home and self-isolate for two weeks. 

Include people who cannot attend the funeral or memorial service

Think about people who cannot come to the event, such as people who are sick, people who live in another city, people who are quarantined, or people who are at higher risk of complications of COVID-19. Consider streaming the service online so that these people can take part. Some people may want to wait until the pandemic is over to hold a funeral or memorial service so that there is no limit to the number of people who can come and no risk of infection. 

Plan to have the funeral or memorial service in a large, open space

Try to have the event outdoors if you can, with lots of fresh air and space for people to keep their distance from each other. If you have to have the event indoors, try to find the largest space you can, open doors and windows for better air circulation. 

Make sure that no more than 10 people come together at once

The larger the group is, the higher the likelihood for COVID-19 to spread. This is why funerals cannot have more than 10 people at once including the officiant. There should be no receptions of any kind inside or outside in any venue including homes or community-based venues.  Try to keep your physical distance from others who are not in your household. It is easy to forget guidance when surrounded by people you know and love, especially in a situation like a funeral or memorial service. Nods and waves are ways you can greet others and offer support. 

At the funeral or memorial service

Keep things clean

Before and after the service, wipe down surfaces that are touched by a lot of people, such as door knobs, light switches, cupboard handles, and tables. Use a product that is effective at killing viruses. Information on how to clean and disinfect surfaces is available here

Make sure there are places where people can clean their hands and dispose of used tissues

Put hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol at the entry and exit, near the casket, and near any food services. Make sure that washrooms have soap and running water to wash hands and paper towels or hand dryers to dry hands. Encourage people who visit to clean their hands: 
  • When they arrive
  • Before they touch their face
  • Before they eat
  • After they touch things like the casket, used tissues, or doorknobs, and
  • After they use the washroom. 
A poster with instructions on how to clean hands properly is available here

Wearing masks

People are required to wear a mask in many indoor public settings including places of worship. Remember that people who wear a mask still need to wash their hands regularly and keep their distance from others. Learn more about wearing a mask.

Viewing and touching the body

Family and friends can view the body of the person who died after it has been prepared for burial or cremation. It is safe to touch the body, whether the person died from COVID-19 or from another cause. Make sure you clean your hands afterwards.  


Singing

Singing is a very important activity for many people. Although it is a higher risk activity, there are ways to make singing safer:

  • For people who are well enough to attend services, stay two metres apart.
  • Try to be outdoors wherever possible.
  • If it is held indoors, open windows or doors to help ventilate the room. Limit the number of people who are singing and limit the time spent singing.
  • Consider breaking into smaller groups that sing together for shorter periods of time.
  • Consider having a soloist or a small group of singers perform for the audience.
  • Try humming along to recorded music or along with a soloist or small group of singers.
  • Do not share microphones, music stands, or other equipment.

Pallbearing

Pallbearers should wear masks because they are close to each other in pallbearing, and wash their hands afterwards. 

Help Public Health 

Write down the name and phone number of people who attend the funeral or memorial service event(s). This will help public health with contact tracing should an attendee be found to have COVID-19 and others are exposed. One person could do this, or visitors could sign a sheet or submit information online. Make sure there is hand sanitizer available so people can clean their hands if using a shared pen.  




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