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COVID-19 Postmortem
Q & A: Funeral homes

Can funeral homes/mortuaries refuse to accept the bodies of those who died of COVID-19?

The existing state and federal guidance does not support funeral homes, mortuaries, or death care workers refusing to accept the bodies of those who died of COVID-19. Rather, the existing state and federal guidance provides that death care workers need only follow routine infection prevention and control precautions. 

CDPH has issued guidance for procedures and transfer of deceased persons with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. The guidance does not prohibit funeral homes from accepting such bodies or impose any additional standards for their handling. Rather, CDPH makes note of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) COVID-19 guidance for death care workers that recommends using a combination of standard precautionscontact precautionsairborne precautions, and eye protection (e.g., goggles or face shields) to protect those workers with exposure to the virus.

This guidance also notes that COVID-19 is most often transmitted from a living person with close contact via respiratory droplets and that this route of transmission is not a concern when handling human remains or performing postmortem procedures.

Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises, “Funeral home workers should follow their routine infection prevention and control precautions when handling a decedent who died of COVID-19.” 

These guidelines are consistent with the position of the National Funeral Directors Association and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

If you learn of any funeral homes refusing to accept the bodies of those with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, please contact Jackie Garman at jgarman@calhospital.org or (916) 552-7636.  (4/16)

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