Coronavirus Deaths and Funerals
Updated: Jan 19
If you're not sick from COVID-19, you're most likely growing sick of hearing about it. Coronavirus deaths are, however, shaking up the way we think about death and grieving. Here is a rundown of some of what we currently know about the impact of coronavirus deaths on funerals, graves, and the future of cemeteries. This can let you know what do when faced with a funeral or death during this trying time.
*Note: We are not taking coronavirus deaths lightly or trying to profit financially from this pandemic. This topic is, however, at the forefront of nearly everyone's minds at the moment. Currant wants to help push our mindset forward and determine what we can do to ease funeral arrangements and body burials during unfortunate times like these in the future.
1. Virtual funerals are being held
While some sources claim this practice of live-streaming is the "new norm for funerals", is that truly the case? Will we forego gathering together once the imminent threat of coronavirus death has subsided? These are important things to consider. With the rise of working from home and having virtual meetings, society is being forced to consider these mediated forms of communication.
Beyond the pandemic, live-streaming funeral services and burials can have their perks. Family members that are normally unable to make the service can then attend. At Currant, we recommend a few things for funerals during this time and into the future:
- Let's transform morose, sad funerals into celebrations of life. Celebrate, in death, the way you would like to celebrate your loved one in life. This way, the live-stream can be recorded and cherished for years to come - rather than stowed away because it's too depressing to watch.
- Public spaces can be extremely open and sanitary if maintained correctly. Currant will have open areas to ride bikes, walk your dog, and enjoy the open air. This means that you won't have to pack into a funeral home and burial site with other humans with germs you may not want to be exposed to.
This brings us to our next point:
2. Social distancing is practiced at funeral homes and cemeteries
While we are cautioned to avoid large gatherings and stay 6 feet away from others during this time, there are some cases causing questioning of this practice. Funerals are a time when you want to be around loved ones, and this pandemic is making it difficult to do so safely. However, services are still being held at places like National Cemeteries. It's best to check with the funeral home or cemetery you are visiting to see what practices and guidelines they have in place at the current time, as things may change in the near future.
3. Graveside services banned
Some services will be restricted to 10 or less people in attendance. Graveside services could also be banned altogether. Even some organizations, such as the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee, are not holding funerals at all. Bishop Steven Miller said in a letter that "until the time of social distancing can be ended," there would be no funerals. There are some funeral homes that have recorded services for years now, unrelated to coronavirus issues. They send these recordings to people that cannot attend. There are options, but we can't help but think that we could still do better for our grieving communities.
4. Funeral homes are not prepared for the surge in Italy
Victims of the coronavirus are rising in numbers. In Italy, the climb in coronavirus deaths was so rapid, there was confusion and an inability to deal with the influx. Hospitals are obviously flooded with issues and patients at the moment. Emergency services, such as ambulances, are being hit with a surge in incoming calls; so much so that their phone lines are often busy.
What about the bodies of coronavirus death victims? This is also causing a major problem. The unusual number of funerals that are needed during this pandemic is almost too much to bear. Pictured on the right is an Italian funeral worker transporting the coffin of a coronavirus victim into a cemetery in Bergamo (Photograph: Flavio Lo Scalzo/Reuters).
"Coffins awaiting burial are lining up in churches and the corpses of those who died at home are being kept in sealed-off rooms for days as funeral services struggle to cope in Bergamo, the Italian province hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. As of Wednesday, Covid-19 had killed 2,978 across Italy, all buried or cremated without ceremony. Those who die in hospital do so alone, with their belongings left in bags beside coffins before being collected by funeral workers."
What can we do to be more prepared for instances like this in the future?
5. Large numbers of coronavirus deaths in Iran lead to mass burial pits
This isn't just a problem for Italy. In fact, it appears that no country is equipped to deal with coronavirus deaths (or deaths from a widespread illness, in general). Iran, in particular, has resorted to utilizing mass burial pits for the coronavirus victims. This changes the way that families have to put their loved ones to rest. This can not only disrupt religious practices, but cause the living family members great distress.
Again, how can this be avoided? We need to put our thinking caps on. Like yesterday.
6. United States surpasses all other countries in number of cases
If you are reading this from the United States, you may think that we would evade any such issues from coronavirus deaths. However, as of March 26th, 2020, there have been more coronavirus cases in the US than any other country. The tallies at the time of this posting are as follows (and will only go up from here):
We at Currant were not planning on commenting on the coronavirus impact, but it is just too pertinent and affecting cemeteries across the world. It should be known. It should be talked about. We are seeing too many memes about "isolation" and "quarantine". We need to do something, instead. We need to take action so that these issues with overcrowding of funeral homes and burial sites don't happen in the future.
What we can do moving forward
1. Follow CDC guidelines;
2. Check with the funeral home before visiting and/or making arrangements;
3. Think about recording funerals now and in the future;
4. And modernize funeral services so this is not an issue in the first place.
We can make cemeteries Currant. This means:
- Sanitary burials (think: promession, cremation, or a biodegradable urn that will grow a tree you can visit);
- Contemporary cemetery parks that are:
- wide open spaces to allow reflection and solace while practicing social distancing;
- clean facilities with hand washing stations available;
- and most importantly, not a cramped funeral home with centuries-old carpet that harbors dust and germs;
- Modern "funerals" that are really celebrations of life that you will actually want to record and watch for years to come;
- And green burials that SAVE SPACE.
*Again, we don't expect donations in these times. Help yourself and your family, first and foremost. Currant's mission is to educate on what we can do to modernize cemeteries and funeral services now and in the future. This way, we won't run into the devastating effects that coronavirus deaths are having on society currently. Stay safe out there.*