News & Politics

In Italy, If You Die While in Quarantine, There Won't Be a Funeral

A staff member blocks the view as a person is taken by a stretcher to a waiting ambulance from a nursing facility where more than 50 people are sick and being tested for the COVID-19 virus, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, in Kirkland, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

We’ve been hearing how bad it is in Italy for weeks now. There were 475 deaths in the last 24 hours and the nation’s death toll now surpasses that of China.

CNBC:

The number of people who have died from the coronavirus in Italy has hit 3,405, according to Reuters, meaning the country has now reported more deaths than China as a result of the pandemic.

The death toll in China, where the coronavirus started in Wuhan, in Hubei province late 2019, currently stands at 3,249, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Health officials in Italy said Thursday that the death toll had risen by 427 in the last 24 hours, with 475 deaths recorded the day before.

There are grainy photographs from the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic showing bodies being tossed into mass graves — in Philadelphia. Eventually, in the interest of hygiene and sanitation, Italy may be forced to resort to that method of burial.

Funerals have already been banned.

Reuters:

Everywhere the coronavirus has struck, regardless of culture or religion, ancient rituals to honor the dead and comfort the bereaved have been cut short or abandoned for fear of spreading it further.

The virus, which has killed nearly 9,000 people worldwide, is reshaping many aspects of death, from the practicalities of handling infected bodies to meeting the spiritual and emotional needs of those left behind.

And a funeral would go a long way to attending to the emotional needs of a family to be comforted. unfortunately, in some places, it’s just not possible.

In Ireland, the health authority is advising mortuary workers to put face masks on dead bodies to reduce even the minor risk of infection. In Italy, a funeral company is using video links to allow quarantined families to watch a priest bless the deceased. And in South Korea, fear of the virus has caused such a drop in the number of mourners that funeral caterers are struggling for business.

There is little time for ceremony in hard-hit cities such as Bergamo, northeast of Milan, where the mortuaries are full and the crematorium is working around the clock, said Giacomo Angeloni, a local official in charge of cemeteries.

Bergamo, home to about 120,000 people, has been dealing with 5-6 times the number of dead it would in normal times, he said.

The video link is a good idea, but it’s not the same as standing by a casket and saying goodbye. For many, a funeral helps them grieve as they are with friends and family, united in the emotion of grief.

This is a significant change in daily life that we don’t really pay attention to — until it’s taken away. We’re not at the point in the U.S. where the government will ban funerals and weddings. But if the pandemic gets much worse, it will certainly be considered by local authorities.