140th Annual WFDA Convention
June 7-9, 2021
La Crosse, WI
P02699 FEMA funeral assistance.pdf
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has created a handout to help explain the FEMA COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program and help prevent the public from overwhelming funeral homes and coroner/medical examiners offices. The The Wisconsin Vital Records Office also received this information (as they hold all the death certificate info in their office) and they will be mailing a packet to the families that have a loved one that died of COVID -19 and clearly should be submitting for the reimbursement.
Save the Date for the 140th Annual WFDA Convention, June 7-9, 2021 in La Crosse, WI.
DHS provided clarifying language to vaccinators this week. Coroners, medical examiners, and funeral service workers are part of phase 1a. Access to the vaccine varies between counties. Funeral homes should work with providers or public health agencies currently vaccinating other “unaffiliated” healthcare workers. The term unaffiliated is being used for those who aren’t affiliated with a large healthcare system, such as small clinics and other providers.
Thank you for your patience and support as we plan the best course for our convention this year. The WFDA has polled our membership and weighed the liabilities/ risks of holding an in-person convention in October of this year. After originally postponing the June event to October, we are now choosing to convert our convention to a virtual series of continuing education and cermonies starting Tuesday, October 27, 2020.
We will kick off the virtual event series with our General Business Session and OSHA on Tuesday, October 27, 2020. Schedule details are coming soon! We will be updating our website and sending emails relating to this event so please stay tuned to the Convention page on the WFDA website.
Did you know that WFDA members have exclusive access to resumes submitted by those seeking jobs in funeral service? Check out the latest submitted resumes here. You must be signed in to view.
As a WFDA member, you can also submit a job posting at anytime that will be be listed on our website and in our bi-weekly newsletter, The Spotlight Express. Submit your job posting here.
Looking for a new position in funeral service? Check out the latest job postings here!
As you know, the CDC has issued guidance indicating that embalming confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases is safe, so long as funeral professionals take precautions such as wearing proper PPE and making every possible effort to minimize splashing and aerosolization of fluids. Recognized embalming experts have offered their suggestions for how this might be accomplished.
Recently, NFDA found alternate guidance on embalming from the World Health Organization (WHO), another recognized organization that has been on the front lines confronting COVID-19 around the globe.
While WHO’s recommendations align with CDC guidance in important areas – bodies can be buried or cremated; there is no evidence of people becoming infected from exposure to the bodies of people who died of COVID-19; and families should avoid contact (i.e., touching, kissing, etc.) the body of the decedent – it differs on two key points:
We share this information from WHO in the interest of full disclosure and out of concern for your safety. We also note that WHO is a global organization and embalming standards and practices around the globe may or may not match the high safety standards to which funeral professionals in the United States adhere.
NFDA is making every effort to clarify with the CDC if embalming can be done safely and whether or not older or immune-compromised people should perform this essential task.
NFDA strongly believes that embalming and viewing the body is an important part of meaningful memorialization. However, we also recognize that the safety of funeral directors and embalmers is paramount.
We urge you to seriously weigh the risks presented by embalming COVID-19 cases with the steps you have always taken to be safe while caring for the bodies of people who have died of highly-infectious diseases. Whether you are comfortable embalming a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 victim is a personal choice; you should use your best professional judgment to determine your comfort level with embalming these individuals. NFDA hopes that funeral home owners will respect the wishes of a funeral professional who is not comfortable embalming a pandemic victim, regardless of the reason.
Should you choose to continue embalming victims of the pandemic; the CDC guidance represents the minimum precautions a funeral professional should take. You should use your best professional judgment to determine whether you should take additional precautions beyond what is recommended.
While scientists have learned a lot about COVID-19 in a relatively short period of time, there are still many unknowns and guidance is evolving based on new data. As we learn of new guidance on embalming COVID-19 pandemic victims, we will share it as quickly as we can.
National Funeral Directors Association
13625 Bishops Drive | Brookfield, WI 53005
p: 800.228.6332 | +1.262.789.1880
The WFDA is diligently working to advocate for funeral service professionals to have access to PPE. We have been in contact with the Wisconsin Emergency Task Force and have expressed our need for PPE’s, extra labor for funeral homes, and a streamlined process for funeral directors to understand what to do when the deaths occur. This task force is meeting TODAYand it is imperative that funeral directors across the state contact their County Emergency Manager to request PPE this morning. If enough funeral service professionals reach out, we have a better chance of receiving this critical equipment. Our membership is strong and our voices will be heard if we work together.
****Please note that this is not a guarantee that you will receive your request, so keep checking with your funeral home suppliers to obtain PPE.
Please reference your County Emergency Management Office to find the contact information for your County Emergency Manager. Call them as soon as you can and request PPE for your funeral home.
We will continue to keep you up to date as more information is released.
-Wisconsin Funeral Directors Association
Dear WFDA Members:
Last Tuesday, March 17, Gov. Evers and the Wis. Dept. of Health Services issued a public Health Order that limited gatherings to 9 people or less in a room or enclosed area. Part of that Order also required “social distancing” of six feet between persons. Portions of that Order remain in effect even though the Governor and the DHS have issued a new Order (Emergency Order #12- Safer At Home Order). The new “Safer At Home Order” is much more comprehensive and goes into full effect at 8:00am on Wednesday, March 25 and remains in effect until Friday, April 24 or until a superseding Order is issued.
Very happily for Wisconsin funeral service practitioners and funeral establishments, the Order has a carve-out for funerals and funeral directors. I want to thank WFDA’s lobbyist Tom Moore for his work at the Capitol making sure that our concerns- as funeral directors- were specifically addressed. There are four specific parts of the Safer At Home Order that I want to call WFDA’s members’ attention to:
Naturally, there are many questions and I have been doing my best over the last week to answer those questions for our WFDA members. Four of the most commonly asked questions are:
Does the “mass gathering” limit of less than ten people apply to cemeteries? It would appear that it does not. The “mass gathering” prohibitions all contemplate a single “room” or a “confined space” and a cemetery is neither. [I would note that an indoor mausoleum would be a confined space.] Social distancing still applies to any outdoor activity in any case. As such, it would appear that one could have more than 9 people at a graveside service so long as the six feet of social distancing is maintained. I admit that this would be a strange way to have a graveside service, but I leave it to your creativity. I strongly suggest that you not have a tent or chairs present as this would invite people to break the social distancing requirement. I do note that a large cemetery service may be a bit of a loophole as the entire idea of the Order is to minimize the spread of COVID-19, and a large gathering in a cemetery- even if social distancing is maintained- does not fulfill the spirit of the law even if it fulfills the black letter of the law. That is a business and PR decision for each funeral firm to make.
Can I “cycle” people in and out of the chapel so long as there are no more than 9 in the chapel at a time? It would appear that yes, you can. I again note that the purpose of the Safer At Home Order is to slow the spread of COVID-19 and therefore cycling people in and out of a chapel or church may comply with the black letter of the law but does not comply with the spirit of the law as the viral pathogen would be left behind as a residual in the air from multiple people respirating in a given space.
Does the new Order apply to churches? Yes, it does. I am aware of several clergy claiming that the government’s rules do not apply to churches under the idea of “separation of church and state.” This is false. The Order applies to churches, which may have nine or fewer people attend a service in a room or confined space so long as they practice social distancing.
Do funeral home employees count towards the nine people? Yes, if they are in the same room or confined area. If they are not in the same room or confined area, then no, they do not count. For example, An embalmer working in the prep room would not count toward the nine people limit because he or she is in a different room than those in the chapel.
I want to wish you all the best of luck as we navigate the legal, social, health, and economic issues that this situation has presented while still serving your families and the community with the dignity you have always displayed. Please feel free to call or email me if you have any questions or concerns. WFDA is here to help you, and we appreciate your membership. Take care, my friends!
Michael D. Sharkey, Esq.
WFDA General Counsel
WISCONSIN FUNERAL DIRECTORS ASSOCIATION
5329 FAYETTE AVE
MADISON, WISCONSIN 53713
(608) 256-1757 | FAX: (608) 646-7631
© 2020 Wisconsin Funeral Directors Association.
All Rights Reserved.