Major new rules applied to funerals, funeral homes, following recent executive order

State Executive Order No. 20-010 was put into effect Wednesday, and it will make life for those who have lost a loved on much more difficult than it already was — and it’s spinning funeral directors in ways once thought impossible.

Among the more unthinkable aspects of the order include the discouragement of using the embalming process and the concept of using public morgues when the storage capacity is exceeded at individual funeral homes.

According the order and effective immediately:

• All funeral homes are operating under newly issued Executive Directive #20-010 placing significant new restrictions on licensees during the remainder of the State of Emergency.

• This order has been enacted to ensure the timely removal, preparation, and disposition of all decedents, regardless of the cause or manner of death, and to streamline the proper disposition of the dead while protecting the living during the remainder of this public health crisis.

As of today, the following directives are to be followed regardless of the cause of death:

• Final disposition is strongly encouraged to be immediate cremation, direct burial, or entombment.

• There are to be NO in-person, open-casket viewings, visitations or ceremonies conducted.

• Under no circumstances are more than ten people to gather for any decedent. Ten and under is inclusive of family, funeral home staff, clergy, cemetery/crematory personnel.

• Embalming remains an option but is strongly discouraged at this time.

• Decedents CANNOT be stored or held for future memorialization.

• Funeral homes may not refuse a death due to a lack of capacity. Rather every mortuary must make arrangements with colleagues in other counties to which every family not being serviced must be referred.

• Funeral homes that are over capacity are encouraged to utilize the northern and combined central/southern temporary morgues for the short-term storage of remains in their care.

• It is more urgent than ever that funeral directors assist families through their grief that will undoubtably be compounded by these tighter but necessary restrictions by encouraging and engaging in the development of thoughtful and meaningful public gatherings and services to be held in the future.

• Any workaround to these orders are now clearly prohibited.

These expanded restrictions require the immediate cooperation of all NJ licensees/mortuaries and involve tough conversations that, without delay, should be compassionately had with family members with every arrangement going forward.

Because primary concerns continue to be close contact with the living, not the dead, next-of-kin are urged to authorize disposition and finalize funeral arrangements over the telephone and electronically through Skype, FaceTime, and email.

Funeral directors and the families we serve are working through feelings of isolation. Grief as we understood it has changed, our routines are upended, and everyone’s sense of what was known has become disrupted.

Editor’s note: We’ll have more on this with a local angle in the April 29, 2020, edition of The Observer.

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.