A funeral home’s best efforts to comply with COVID-19 restrictions can be undermined when the body is delivered to the grave for burial.   While the funeral director has the authority to restrict attendance of a funeral service within his/her facilities, most funeral directors are powerless to restrict attendance at the gravesite.  When family and friends were denied the ability to enter the funeral home for giving their last respects, then there will likely be a greater demand to attend the burial.  The duty to enforce COVID-19 restrictions at the graveside belongs to the cemetery, not the funeral director.

In contrast to funeral home websites, most cemetery websites are silent about COVID-19 restrictions.  The International Cemetery, Crematory and Funeral Home Association offers some policy statements to cemeteries, but those policies are for the most part passive in nature.   The cemetery policy statement would cancel tours and programs but would not have the cemetery actively enforce attendance restrictions.  In contrast the city of Montreal and the Dioceses of Sacramento have taken proactive, but different, approaches to COVID-19 restrictions.

Montreal has implemented a policy that limits access to its city cemeteries by appointment only.  Burial services are limited to attendance by immediate family members, limited to 10 persons.  Physical distancing measures will still apply on attendees, requiring them to maintain a distance of two meters between themselves.  Cemeteries will be totally off-limits to visitors or people who wish to walk among the grounds.

The Diocese of Sacramento is not closing their cemeteries’ gates, but rather, is implementing strict rules at avoiding attendance at burials:

  • All Vigils, Funeral Masses and Weekly Saturday 10am Masses are suspended until further notice.
    • Only Immediate Graveside Burials will take place until further notice.
    • No family or guests are permitted to attend.
    • A Priest or Deacon, a funeral director/arranger and ground crew member will attend the committal.
    • Families will be notified after the committal has been completed.

Cities seeking to reduce their COVID-19 exposure should consider the Montreal approach for their city cemeteries.  Privately held cemeteries should discuss COVID-19 exposures with their liability insurance carrier.  If proactive measures are required, the Sacramento approach may be the least disruptive to business.