Funerals barred in Washington state due to coronavirus

March 20, 2020 GMT

SEATTLE (AP) — Funerals are now on the list of prohibited social gatherings under the state’s “social-distancing” order intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Sports and arts events had already been halted after Gov. Jay Inslee’s March 16 proclamation shutting down restaurants, bars, theaters and additional places where people gather.

On Thursday, the Washington State Department of Licensing in an email to funeral directors clarified the proclamation, adding funeral and memorial services, The Seattle Times reported.

Russ Weeks, president and funeral director of Weeks Funeral Homes, which has funeral homes and mortuaries in Enumclaw, Buckley and Tacoma, said many families had already been electing to postpone memorial services.

“We’ve always been trained — and I grew up in the funeral business — you never say no,” Weeks said. “You do whatever you can to do what the family wants. But we have to say: ’No, I’m sorry, we want to help you but we can’t.”

But for some, he added, especially in families and cultures where funerals are a key part of community life, the decision has been especially difficult.

Weeks said funerals, with their hugs and handshakes, can be especially dangerous sites for virus transmission.