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Natchez mayor issues COVID-19 guidelines for funerals

NATCHEZ — Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell issued the following guidelines for funeral homes, funeral directors
and any other persons conducting funerals, memorial services, graveside services, visitations, repasts and
receptions.

Grennell said the guidelines were issued “to further protect Natchez residents from COVID-19 and flatten the
infection rate.”

“Epidemiologists determined that one funeral held in Albany, Georgia on Feb. 29 ultimately resulted in
the deaths of 103 people,” Grennell said. “We can avoid a catastrophe like that here in Natchez
Adams by learning from their tragedy.”

Funerals, along with weddings, church services, and social gatherings like birthday parties are considered ‘super-spreader events’ where one infected person can infect a high number of others,” says the Mayor.

“Funerals present very difficult challenges,” Grennell said. “As the service progresses and
grief takes hold, people lose their resolve to keep a safe distance. They start to huddle closer together and
may even attempt to comfort the grieving family with hugs.”

Mourners share a pen to sign the guest book and at some local graveside services in our community, microphones have been passed around, touching multiple hands and mouths, Grennell said.

“Of course, when tears flow, we all naturally want to wipe our eyes and nose with a tissue or even the back of a hand,” Grennell said.  “In today’s environment, these acts simply could be deadly.”

“We follow the projections issued by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHEM),” Grennell said. “As of now, our best-case scenario here in Natchez Adams is that we might be able to start relaxing social distancing after
May 29th, but this is totally dependent on full social distancing until that time, followed by serious
containment strategies as we ease back into our ‘new normal.’”

Containment strategies include testing, contact tracing, isolation, and limited gathering size.

Grennell said an outbreak at one single “super-spreader event” (a funeral, a church service, or a
social event, or an outbreak at a nursing home, grocery store, or the detention center) could extend our safe
date into the late summer or fall.

“We have not yet reached our peak here in Adams County,” Grennell said. “Our infection and mortality rates are still increasing. With that will come more funerals. For the health and safety of us all, I must ask our funeral directors and residents to abide by these guidelines, even in mourning. We must be patient, faithful, and have courage. A new day will dawn soon.”

Chief Walter Armstrong of the Natchez Police Department is charged with distributing these guidelines
directly to funeral directors, ministers, and cemetery operators throughout the city. The Mayor strongly
urges funeral directors and any other persons conducting funerals, memorial services, graveside services,
visitations, repasts, and receptions to strictly comply with the following safety guidelines:

Small Private Graveside Services
1. Plan a small, private graveside service and do not attempt to hold a traditional funeral service at the
graveside;

2. Encourage the family to hold a memorial or celebration of life service at a later date when it is safe to
do so;

3. Limit the graveside service to 15 minutes and one minister;

4. Limit attendance at the graveside service to 10 people or less at the gravesite, including funeral home
staff;

5. Do not use a microphone. If a microphone is necessary, limit its use to one person;

6. Disallow guest books and shared pens; and,

7. All others in attendance must remain in their vehicle at all times. Do not handshake or hug through
the car window.

Repasts and Receptions

1. Do not congregate for repasts or receptions after the service.

2. Limit any meals or gatherings to immediate family and no more than 10 people.
Private Viewings should be limited to immediate family.

1. Limit private viewings to the immediate family only and no more than 10 people;

2. Hand sanitizer must be used upon entry to the funeral home and upon departure; and,

3. Mourners must maintain strict social distancing at all times.

Attendees

1. Encourage people who are elderly, ill and/or at-risk (e.g., immune-compromised) to stay home;

2. Encourage all in attendance to practice social distancing 6 to 10 feet apart), hand hygiene, and the
wearing of masks or other nose and mouth coverings. A simple scarf or bandana will do; and,

3. Require mourners to maintain strict social distancing at all times.

Additional Practical Guidance:

1. The NAFD recommends against tents or chair coverings.

2. Discuss options for webcasting the funeral so others can view from home (see NFDA information on
webcasting); and

3. Determine other options you can offer families while following recommended federal, state and local
guidance on public gatherings.

National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA)

The National Funeral Directors Association is the world’s leading, largest and most trusted association to
support funeral professionals. If local and/or state public health officials are making recommendations for the
care of decedents and/or public gatherings that are more stringent than what the CDC and federal government
have recommended, you should defer to your state and/or local public health officials. NFDA COVID-19
recommendations may be found on the NFDA website. https://www.nfda.org/covid-19/visitations-funerals
Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) is an independent population health research center
at UW Medicine, part of the University of Washington, that provides rigorous and comparable measurement
of the world’s most important health problems and evaluates the strategies used to address them. IHME
makes this information freely available so that policymakers have the evidence they need to make informed
decisions about how to allocate resources to best improve population health. Mississippi’s coronavirus
metrics can be found at this link: https://covid19.healthdata.org/united-states-of-america/mississippi