The coronavirus pandemic is changing life as we know it, and this includes the afterlife now that the CDC has asked funeral directors to livestream services as a way to appease large grieving crowds, according to a Wednesday report from the New York Post.
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The CDC has discouraged social gatherings of more than 50 people in the last week to curb the spread of COVID-19 while President Donald Trump has recently gone a step farther and said groups shouldn’t be larger than 10 people. Consequently, these advisements have sliced church attendance numbers and have even made Americans wonder if funerals should be carried out, postponed or skipped entirely.
In a webinar with the National Funeral Directors Association this week, CDC epidemiologist Dr. David Berendes said, “As you think about planning for the event, limit the number of people if possible, use livestreaming options and perhaps have only immediately family on hand,” according to the BBC.
Given that over 214,000 people have been infected with the disease across the globe and more than 8,000 deaths have resulted from the pandemic, it is not hard to understand why the CDC and some funeral homes are turning to technology as a saving grace.
The Schepp Family Funeral Homes in Fayetteville, New York, are an example of modern ingenuity. Owner Eric Schepp told Syracuse.com that his funeral homes are equipped with webcams since his company has livestreamed calling hours and services in the past.
“What you’re going to see is (a big increase) in private calling hours and services with the intent of keeping the number of people attending to under 50 individuals,” Schepp said.
He also told the publication that guests have opted to sign digital visitor books to extend their condolences in recent years, which makes the idea of a livestreamed service seem less strange.
Other funeral homes that haven’t gone to the livestream side are doing what they can in this trying time.
The Frank E. Campbell - The Funeral Home Chapel in New York City issued a statement on its website that enhanced cleaning procedures will take place in its venue per the CDC’s recommendations along with guest attendance directives. The company is also offering phone and email arrangements for families seeking services for lost members.
In Chicago, Catholic churches are also restricting the number of guests that can be present for funerals, wakes, viewings and committals. These events will be open to immediate family members and will not exceed 10 people at a time. Attendees are said to be observing “social distancing” practices by sitting apart by at least 6 feet, according to a statement released by the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Pre- and post-service gatherings will not be allowed on parish property.
“The Archdiocese of Chicago recognizes that the comfort of the sacraments is needed particularly for those in grief," a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Chicago told FOX Business. "Our present guidance is that we will conduct funerals with only the immediate family present, mindful of the 10 person limit recommended by civil authorities.”
This article has been updated with commentary from the Archdiocese of Chicago.