COVID-19 has changed the way Yukoners live and work. This includes how we grieve lost loved ones and hold funeral services. Public health measures have made it difficult to celebrate the lives of those we lost. The process of grieving will look different for everyone and every family.
These recommendations will help ensure we keep people, families and communities safe. Yukoners can again honour loved ones and community members during these difficult times.
For more information on First Nations funeral services refer to COVID-19 in First Nations Communities: Funeral Services.
6 steps to staying safe
- Maintain physical distancing – keep 2 metres (6 feet) away from everyone who’s not a member of your bubble.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Stay home if you’re feeling sick.
- Don’t gather in groups of more than 10 people indoors or 50 outdoors, and remember to keep 2 metres apart.
- Limit travel to rural communities, and be respectful when you’re there.
- Self-isolate if you’ve just returned to Yukon from anywhere other than British Columbia, Nunavut and Northwest Territories, or if you’ve been in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.
How to hold a safe funeral service
New guidelines reduce the risk of transmission and support physical distancing.
- No more than 10 people can attend an indoor funeral service.
- No more than 50 people can attend an outdoor funeral service.
- Consider holding a service outdoors ‒ physical distancing can be easier if there's more space.
- Communal food and drink is not allowed at services for health and safety reasons.
Infection prevention and control measures
Follow the 6 steps to staying safe and guidance below when planning or attending a service.
- Physical distancing of 2 metres (6 feet) must kept between attendees.
- People from the same household or combined households may be in closer proximity.
- People may choose to wear non-medical masks ‒ a mask is not required if using physical distancing measures.
- Handshaking, hugging, touching or passing objects between people is not permitted.
- If pallbearers move the casket, observe physical distancing of at least 2 metres (6 feet).
- Often, 6 pallbearers work together; reducing this to 4 in the case of a lighter casket can allow for more effective distancing.
- Consider a ceremony at graveside where the funeral home can move the casket for the family.
- If the deceased had COVID-19, family and friends should not kiss or touch the body.
- Observe proper hand washing methods if the body was touched.
- Encourage hand-washing and respiratory etiquette when attending a service. This includes:
- cough and sneeze into your elbow or a tissue;
- discarding tissues into a lined garbage bin and wash your hands afterwards.
- It's recommended to use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
- Sick or symptomatic people should stay home.
- A person self-isolating cannot attend a funeral service in person. Proper self-isolating is 1 of Yukon's public health orders.
- Seniors and vulnerable people should virtually attend services, if possible.
Heritage North Funeral Home procedures
- Funeral arrangements should occur by phone, fax or email.
- Up to 3 decision-makers can make arrangements in person, if needed.
- If the deceased is positive for COVID-19, embalming will not be performed, but burial and cremation are still available.
- Cremation requires coroner approval to ensure investigation into the death is not needed.
- For cremations, people can gather outside of the facility to witness the handling of the casket through an open door, in groups of 50 or fewer.
- Up to 3 people may attend in-person funeral home viewings or visitations at any given time.
- The funeral home:
- will allow viewings through an outside window; and
- can also provide pictures of loved ones on request.
Cultural or religious considerations
Many religious and ethnic groups have specific customs. Each group differs in how they treat bodies after death and for funerals. Accommodating these needs will be a priority if they do not affect the safety of the community.
Involve religious and cultural leaders in planning funerals. They will ensure that performed ceremonies are appropriate for cultural and religious groups. Engage them for bereavement counselling for the family as well.
If the deceased had or was suspected to have had COVID-19
In remote and isolated communities, deaths may happen in the community. In some cases, bodies may stay in family homes immediately following death. If untouched, these bodies are not a transmission risk to others.
Community members may need to move a body. This should only happen when funeral service personnel are not available. Direct contact should not happen unless necessary.
People must observe a 2-metre (6-feet) distance to witness the preparation of the body. If the deceased was not exposed to COVID-19, extra precautions beyond what is typical are not necessary.
Find more information on COVID-19. If you have non-medical questions, phone the COVID-19 toll-free InfoLine 1-877-374-0425 between 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m., 7 days a week.