A Plan to Prepare Ohio for COVID-19’s Impending Effect on the Funeral Industry

March 23rd on The Today Show, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams told the nation that “this week, it’s gonna get bad.” The more dire the prognostications become from our healthcare leaders, the more important it becomes for every state to think proactively about how to prepare.

So, as infections quickly spread and hospitals become overwhelmed, states like Ohio may be faced with an uncomfortable reality- the death toll will also likely rise.

As a recognized national leader in COVID-19 response planning, Ohio must continue to think ahead during the pandemic and direct attention to planning for this final stage of the pandemic. And though it’s not easy to discuss, a comprehensive government plan is required to respond to a potentially critical problem- a sudden and unfortunate surge in deaths.

If the State’s goal is to continue to be a forward-thinking leader in the national COVID-19 response, there are three key areas that Ohio must still address:

1. Eliminate process inefficiencies. 

The State should consider streamlining procedural inefficiencies that will delay funerals, burials, and cremation by:

  • developing a method to help the local registrar expedite the process to issue burial transit or disposition permits;
  • requiring mandatory registration with the Ohio Department of Health, Vital Statistics – Electronic Death Registration System (EDRS); and
  • enforcing strict compliance with the 48-hour requirement to complete death certificates

2. Provide regulatory and enforcement relief. 

The State should grant funeral directors relief from statutory timelines requiring disposition by:

  • suspending enforcement of the regulation requiring funeral directors to carry out final disposition of a deceased within thirty days;
  • suspending enforcement of the requirement to either embalm or place into refrigeration a deceased within 48 hours of the time of death; and
  • explicitly authorizing electronic signatures on the cremation authorization form.

3. Protect the funeral director.

The State must take precautionary measures to protect funeral directors from exposure to COVID-19 by:

  • ensuring funeral directors have sufficient quantities of personal protective equipment (PPE) to care for the deceased and prevent the spread of the virus;
  • utilizing remote arrangement conferences with electronic paperwork for planning; and
  • limiting the number of visitors allowed at calling hours by combining the visitor limitation with a virtual option.