Since the onset of the Covid cases in Texas, life has not been the same, and neither has to pay our last respects and to bid our loved ones, remained the same. In the past, we could express our feelings of sympathy to those affected by different actions, and funerals would be full of mourners. But that’s not the case today; we’ve had to be true to the measures set forth by the Texas state government. The Covid 19 pandemic has put everyone on their knees by stinging the economy among other sectors.
While the restrictions the state of Texas has put in place have been hard to live with, they are worth it if you look at the bigger picture. You get to stay here long enough to take care of your loved ones. In this article, we look at the funeral guidelines put in place here in Texas during Covid. Let’s dive right into it.
COVID Cases in Texas and Funeral Arrangements; First Things First
Let’s first go through some quick bites before we look at the guidelines. These are;
- We can still give our loved ones a decent send-off. Covid-19 has come with baggage that affects us both physical and mental health, among others. While Covid-19 is still with us, it does not have to dictate whether we bury or cremate our departed. Whatever they wished for while they were alive, we can still honor.
- Covid-19 should not cause delays in visitations and funeral services. Based on the state and CDC recommendations, we must embrace some slight changes in our traditional practices. However, the family members can still discuss the funeral service timings with the service providers. The medical fraternity does not quite fully understand the Covid-19y. And neither do we know it either. We are yet to know how it spreads. However, what we know is that according to the CDC, there are no known risks associated with you being in the same room attending a funeral service. Also, there is no risk of viewing a body prepared by the service providers and ready for viewing even if the deceased died of Covid-19.
- Not everyone who is infected with Covid-19 exhibits the symptoms associated with the disease. Therefore, we need to take precautions in the process of planning or holding a funeral service.
Funeral Guidelines during COVID Cases in Texas
Expectations from family and culture may put a lot of pressure on you and others to attend, conduct, or arrange funeral ceremonies and family visits. However, we must change these expectations to protect the safety of those who will attend funerals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to this report by the CDC, the funeral attendees and party-goers are more exposed to Covid-19. The information records that those who infected others did not show the Covid-19 symptoms, nor did they feel sick during the time. They were not even aware that they were spreading the virus to their families and loved ones.
The following are some funeral guidelines Texans should have in mind to help prevent the spreading of the coronavirus. The guidelines are in line with the CDC and the executive order of the Texas Governor, State of Texas Health Department, and Local Government Authorities.
Limit the Number of Guests to Close Relatives and Close Friends; Covid Cases in Texas
A religious ceremony held in a church or place of worship, including a funeral or memorial service held in a church, house of worship, or the funeral home or mortuary chapel, has no occupancy limit or limitations. That being the case, the state has not limited the number of funeral attendees or those attending a memorial service. Funeral homes, however, have to ensure that they disinfect the areas where the mourners interact. Based on their judgment, they should limit the numbers of mourners to that which they can accommodate without compromising the covid-19 protocols.
There are those family members who are at high risk of infection. Such groups should have a particular area prepared for them. The relevant department should ensure they spray the area both before and after usage. This area is only for the high-risk members and the immediate family members.
Also, the state recommends that mourners should take advantage of live streaming accommodation. We know that this is a better way to avoid large gatherings, but this is also a better way to allow the high-risk group to participate remotely in the events if they cannot attend in person.
It is also essential to limit the population of attendees coming from different regions of the country. Or rather, you can limit the number of people coming from areas with high Covid cases in Texas infection rates.
Exercise the Health Protocols for Prevention; Covid Cases in Texas
The standard Covid-19 health protocols are pretty easy to memorize. They include;
- Washing hands with soap/ sanitizing.
- You have to put on a face mask/ covering your face.
- You have to clean your home surfaces.
- We must exercise the social distance rule of at least 2 meters.
During funerals or visitations, ensure you apply the health protocols in the following ways;
- Ensure that the place you hold your gatherings and services is well-ventilated and large. At best, you should have meetings outdoors. However, whether you have the meetings indoors or outdoors will depend on the traditions and circumstances.
- You should arrange the seats at least 6 feet apart. This spacing is vital for attendees not living in the same home and those living in the same household. In addition, it is pretty effective in controlling the spread of the coronavirus.
- The state of Texas does not mandate the wearing of face masks in public. However, it is a good practice if attendees wear masks when interacting with attendees coming from different households.
- Families coming from the same household can express comfort towards one another, like sitting next to each other, holding hands, and hugging. However, attendees of different families can comfort each other through acts like nodding, waving, or bowing. That is to avoid close contact that can put the lives of the mourners in danger.
- You should limit the number of people who engage in activities producing respiratory droplets containing the virus. These activities include singing or even chanting. The activities are pretty unhealthy, especially when participants and attendees are indoors or the participants are close to each other. If the attendees have to sing or chant, you should encourage them to wear masks and increase the distance between them to more than 6 feet.
- All attendees should embrace preventive actions like covering coughs and sneezes and regular washing of hands.
Consider Modifying Customary Rites or Behaviors; Covid Cases in Texas
We’ve already established that the state has not put any limit on the number of attendees. The duty, therefore, of the mourners and attendees is solely to ensure their safety. Since times have not been relatively normal, it’s time Texans also thought or worked on a new normal.
You can liaise with the clergy or the party that will be officiating and the funeral home director to work out the necessary changes to protect everyone who attends or participates in any activity in the funeral. The CDC proposes some modified options like;
- The mourning family should organize a graveside-only service.
- Modifying or doing away with funeral practices involving close contact among the attendees or even sharing among people from different households. The sharing activities that may not be too healthy include sharing the limousine or car when heading to the cemetery from the church.
Another exercise is offering foodstuff and beverages to the funeral attendees after the services.
- You have to do away with or change any religious rituals that are unnecessary after consulting with the religious leaders or the clergy.
We all are aware that some traditions are pretty tricky to do away with. Whether it is sharing rides to the burial site or sharing beverages and foods. If they are pretty essential, then you can modify them by;
- Limit the sharing of objects exchanged or handed by clergy and participants during religious ceremonies, such as prayer books, worship aids, among others.
- The different households should group themselves inside the vehicles transporting them to the cemetery to avoid possible infection caused by contact with someone from a separate home. Moreover, you should increase your ventilation through open windows and, if possible, using the vehicle’s air conditioner. Just ensure the AC is not in recirculating mode.
- If food is at the reception, ensure that pre-packaged boxes or bags are available. That is safer than the old family potluck, family-style meal, or buffet. Also, implement the measures so that there’s no room for sharing food or utensils between households.
We may be used to bringing food to the mourning family in some cultures to show that we care and are one with the grieving family members. However, during this covid-19 era, we’ll have to express our thoughtfulness in ways that do not put all of us at risk. But that does not mean that you cannot do this, as long as you keep 6 feet apart. Other efficient ways can be through gift cards for food delivery or mailing.
Mourners Should Avoid Touching the Deceased’s Body before Preparation; Covid Cases in Texas
Texas is home to over 100 different civilizations, each with its way of doing things. These cultures grieve in various ways, with some touching the bodies of their loved ones before preparing the funeral.
According to the CDC, there are possibilities that one may get infected with the virus when they touch the body of a person with Covid-19 confirmed or suspected. However, the chances of contracting the virus through this means are slim once the body is ready for viewing. Remember, the chances are slim, not nil. We are yet to understand the virus and its transmissions fully.
Before the deceased’s body is ready for viewing, you should protect yourself and others by doing the following;
- Suppose your loved one is suspected or confirmed to have Covid-19. Avoid touching, kissing, or hugging them before or even when the attendants at the funeral home are preparing them. This safety measure is quite essential, especially for individuals at higher risk of contracting Covid-19.
- Remember to wash your hands with water and soap for a minimum of 20 seconds if you have any contact with the body. A sanitizer with an alcohol content of at least 60% is ideal if the soap and water are not available for usage.
Exercise Caution When Performing Rites That Entail Touching the Corpse of a Deceased Person; Covid Cases in Texas
If your deceased loved one is suspected or confirmed by doctors to have Covid-19, you should avoid washing, kissing, or shrouding them before, during, and after the body is ready for viewing. You should therefore take the following precautions whenever you are participating in activities, whether cultural or religious, that are important;
You can work together with your religious and cultural leaders and the funeral home staff to identify practices that may not be necessary under the Covid-19 circumstances. That helps reduce exposure and keep everyone as safe as possible.
Ensure that individuals at higher risk of Covid-19 infection do not participate in such activities. Furthermore, not even the members of these households should be allowed to participate in the activities since they might unsuspectingly contract the virus and take it home.
If you participate in the activities, remember to put on disposable gloves made from rubber, latex, or nitrile. You might also need protective gear like face masks (even for this occasion only since it is not mandatory to put them on in public in Texas). Others include disposable goggles and face shields. Ensure they are waterproof just in case you might encounter splashing fluids.
After the activities,
Ensure that you remove the gloves and other protective gear which you used and throw them away safely. Next, you’ll have to wash your hands immediately using water and soap for 20 seconds. Just as I said earlier, if soap isn’t available, use an approved hand sanitizer as an alternative. It would be best if you then showered as fast as possible.
If you did not put on an isolation gown when preparing the body, you have to wash the clothes you put on using warm water. Then you should ensure the clothes are completely dry before you put them on before you store them or put them on again.
When removing your loved one’s possessions like wedding rings from the body, ensure you clean and sterilize them. After that, you should wash your hands immediately.
Collect Your Loved One’s Possessions in a Secure Way; Covid Cases in Texas
As a relative of the deceased, you may want to retrieve your loved one’s belongings. If they had Covid-19 and died outside the home, the state allows you to retrieve their belongings. However, you have to do it without compromising your own health. You can collect your loved one’s belongings at the healthcare facility or funeral home.
During the collection process, ensure you use gloves and sanitize when handling your loved one’s belongings. The Center for Disease and Control has a set of guidelines that will benefit you if you are collecting electronic materials and other types. You can get them here.