Grieving families seek clarity on funeral, burial, cremation guidelines during COVID-19 outbreak

Hundreds of people have reached out to Turn To Tara, confused and frustrated by the funeral, burial and cremation guidelines that seem to change on a daily basis during the COVID-19 pandemic.

News 12 Staff

Apr 28, 2020, 9:43 PM

Updated 1,489 days ago

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Hundreds of people have reached out to Turn To Tara, confused and frustrated by the funeral, burial and cremation guidelines that seem to change on a daily basis during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The team sorted through all the rules and regulations to break it down for viewers.
All public wakes are still banned in the state of New York.
Visitation hours are being offered for immediate relatives of the deceased, which can be tricky for those who have a large family.
News 12 turned to the New York State Funeral Directors Association for clarification.
“Some funeral homes have decided to follow the White House and CDC's guidelines of limiting it to 10 people,” says Mike Lanotte, the executive director of the New York State Funeral Directors Association.

The guidelines get even more complicated when it comes to cemeteries. Most of them are still facing unprecedented demand.
Philip Tassi, the president of the New York State Cemetery Association and vice president of the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, says these are times he has never seen before.
“We are asking everybody who attends to stay in a car until the casket is taken out and buried. After our staff leaves, we allow families to come in and do a service,” he says.

Mount Hope Cemetery initially took a far more cautious approach. At first, it banned all mourners, ceremonies and even cars. It claimed it was trying to adhere to the governor's ban of all social events.
MORE: Forgotten Front Line: COVID-19 pushing death care industry to its limits 

It turns out that both cemeteries got it right because even though a state agency has to approve them, each facility gets to decide its own rules and regulations.
As for crematoriums, a service for loved one may not happen for months.
“Crematoriums are working 300 times capacity. There is tremendous backlog,” says David Fleming, the legislative director of the New York State Association of Cemeteries.
Doniele Curley, whose father died during the COVID-19 outbreak, says her dad’s legacy was denied the recognition it deserved.
Don Haggerty was a former Yonkers police officer who died earlier this month. Curley says there were no salutes, no bagpipes, no wall of blue.
She says what hurt the most was after his flag-draped casket arrived at the Mount Hope Cemetery in Hastings-on-Hudson, the cemetery strictly enforced its rules by banning all families from driving past the front gate.

“It just breaks my heart he couldn't get the proper sendoff,” she says.
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