March 23, 2020

Question: Are there any ideas for contingency plans for a funeral home/cemetery/crematory – should a staff member test positive for COVID-19?

Answer: A contingency plan for the situation in which a staff member tests positive for COVID-19 would be based on multiple variables. For example, the CDC recommends that a person sharing a dwelling with another person who tests positive for COVID-19 should follow the recommended self-quarantine guidelines. These guidelines are in place because it is assumed that the infected person is in close proximity with the non-infected person for extended periods of time.

With this in mind, many factors contribute to the contingency plan that would be enacted should a staff member test positive. Factors such as:

  • Where does the infected staff member perform their duties regularly?
  • Are they an embalmer who spends the majority of their time in the preparation facility and has limited contact with other staff?
  • Are they a grounds crew member who performs the majority of their duties outdoors?
  • Are they an administrator or other staff member who shares workspace in close proximity to other employees?

Essentially, one would have to conduct a risk assessment of the entire staff’s potential exposure and then develop a contingency plan accordingly. At the very least, while still protecting the confidentiality of the person involved, any team members deemed to be at high risk for exposure should be notified.

In addition to how to handle a possible case of an employee being tested positive for COVID-19, it is important to start doing everything you can as a business to reduce the risk of infection. In deathcare, the options of an at-home workforce may be limited, if not impossible. However, consider allowing any and all possible positions to work remotely if at all possible. The other suggested option is to create a schedule that keeps as many of your staff separated as possible. This can be done by limiting staff that report to work; rotating the schedule; and even segregating positions so that employees have little to no contact with others. Of course, the general suggestions of disinfecting; limiting contact and personal space should always be followed as well. These suggestions also follow recommended guidelines from the CDC: