COVID-19: Preventive and Protective Measures for Funeral Services Businesses
This information sheet presents the interim recommendations of the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) regarding the preventive and protective measures to be taken by funeral services businesses (FSBs) that must take charge of the bodies of deceased persons whose death was attributable to COVID-19 as the primary cause or a contributing cause.
The name of the disease is COVID-19, but the virus has been identified as SRAS-CoV-2. The information presented in this document will be adjusted to reflect the evolution of the pandemic and the progression of knowledge in this area.
COVID-19 is included under Schedule 1 of the Regulation respecting the application of the Funeral Operations Act (CQLR), chapter A-5.02, r.1. It is important to consider that this is a new disease caused by a virus all of whose properties are not known, these being distinct from the other diseases listed in Schedule 1.
On April 6, 2020, the Directeur national de santé publique du Québec informed funeral services businesses (FSBs) of its decision to lift the requirement for FSBs to obtain authorization from the Direction de santé publique (DSPublique) for their territory (their regional public health department) for confirmed cases of COVID-19. They are permitted to directly take charge of the body while complying with the instructions presented in this document. Cases can have been confirmed by laboratory or epidemiological link.
Technically, this authorization applies only to the taking in charge of the body and it is recommended that FSBs contact the DSPublique for their territory for any other matters that arise after the body is taken in charge at the place of death that are not specifically covered in this document.
Also, deaths may occur in patients under investigation for COVID-19 or who are suspected of having COVID-19 at the time of death. In such situations, it is the responsibility of either the physician or the nurse who draws up the attestation of death, or of the DSPublique, to transmit to the FSB the recommendations that apply, taking into account certain criteria and the result of a post-mortem diagnostic test if indicated. The instructions regarding this subject are available in the Guide de gestion des décès de COVID‑19 (in French only) intended for health and social services facilities, public health departments and FSBs (INSPQ, May 2020).
Finally, the management of deaths during a pandemic must include a method for managing the risks of contamination not only by the body, but also among funeral workers and among participants in funeral events. Certain general rules for the protection of workers' health apply; these recommendations are set out in Annex 1 of this document.
This document was the subject of consultations with experts in embalming and in occupational health and safety.
This document can be consulted in complementarity with the other documents produced by the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) regarding COVID-19.