News/Press Releases

 

June 25, 2020

6/25 VA Gov Northam COVID-19 Update

Governor Northam announced that today will be the last of his regularly scheduled COVID-19 briefings and, going forward, they will be held on an as-needed basis.

Updated Numbers:
59,946 positive cases, 654,500 total tests, and 1,675 deaths.

Today’s percent positivity number (6%) is the lowest Virginia has seen in weeks. Virginia continues to expand testing capabilities while increasing contact tracing capabilities. The Administration is relying heavily on the UVA model for COVID-19 testing needs.

Phase III Reopening –
Virginia is on track to move into Phase III next Wednesday, July 1st.

Housing Stability and Energy Relief –
Governor is directing VHCD to create a rent and mortgage relief program with $50 million of CARES Act funding to help those struggling to pay their housing bills. It will have an equity lens and will start Monday, June 29th. DSS will use CARES Act funding to launch a program to provide energy assistance for those who have struggled to pay bills during the pandemic and additional assistance to those already receiving financial aid.

Back to School –
The Virginia Reopening Plan is a guidance document that aligns with CDC guidelines and is intended to inform local discussions, not to mandate how schools will reopen. The Administration has been inundated with calls and emails from legislators and parents across the Commonwealth. The Governor’s Chief of Staff pushed back today and said that the school reopening decisions are controlled by local school boards and leaders. Schools will move into Phase III next week. As Virginia’s numbers continue to trend positively, Virginia’s schools (and businesses) will have new guidelines as the state moves past Phase III.


June 24, 2020

Information Regarding Cremation Module

Dear VFDA Members:

Please make sure you read the information below and that you have reviewed the PowerPoint we sent earlier in June.

If you haven’t looked at the PowerPoint, you need to. It explains, in detail, the steps that you have to take to sign cremation certificates for Non-Medical Examiner Cases AND Medical Examiner Cases once the update system is live. Once the updated system is live, ALL cremation certificates will be completed electronically for Non-Medical Examiner and Medical Examiner Cases. The funeral homes were provided instructions on how they request a cremation certificate for Non-ME Cases and ME Cases.

The biggest changes that you will see as a local medical examiner:
1. Cremation certificates are only going to be completed electronically going forward once the system is live
2. Since you are completing cremation certificates electronically, you will not be required to send any paperwork into the office since everything will be in EDRS now. That is for both ME and Non-ME cases! This will be effective once the system goes live. That’s a big change! However, you may want to keep a copy for yourself for tax purposes. The funeral home should be able to print their own since they requested it and now have access to it via EDRS. Again… much easier so you don’t have to shuffle paper around.
3. All lines of the death certificate will not print on the cremation certificate. The current form needs to be redesigned and there is not enough room for this information to populate. Redesigning the current form will be an unknown later date.
4. Non-ME Cases
1. Funeral Homes can still assign Non ME Cases to local medical examiners so you will still be able to view the decedents and certify cremation certificates for them.
2. Once the funeral home assigns it to you, you follow the steps in EDRS that was provided in the PowerPoint to ensure you are completing it appropriately.
• You still have to do your examination of the decedent.
• You still have to SEE the signed/certified green border/Non ME death certificate to enter the COD in the electronic form in EDRS.
• IF the COD statement on the form requires further inquiry, you still have to do that. Since the form is electronic, there is a spot in EDRS for the cremation certificate where you can enter the information you obtained from further inquiry. See PowerPoint for further instruction.
3. Once you obtain the additional information (if applicable), you will follow the steps to complete the cremation certificate that are provided in the PowerPoint. You will be able to print a copy for yourself. The funeral home will be able to print a copy as well ONCE you indicate in EDRS that payment was received.
4. You will still be able to receive payment the way you currently are from funeral homes/crematories that you complete Non-ME cremation views on.
5. ME Cases
1. The Local Medical Examiner or Assistant Chief Medical Examiner who completed the case will be the only person able to certify the cremation certificate. This is a huge change!
2. See instructions in the PowerPoint for completing cremation certificates for ME cases.
3. While you’re certifying the death certificate, there will be an option for you to select “Is Cremation Allowed”? That does not mean the person will definitely be cremated, that just means that the person CAN be cremated (no identification issues, etc). IF a funeral home/crematory decides that they want a cremation, you’ve already indicated that the person CAN be cremated if that’s the route the family decides to go.
4. The funeral home/crematory will go into EDRS for that decedent and request that you complete a cremation certificate for the decedent. You will have an alert notifying you that you need to sign a cremation certificate. Since you’ve already viewed the decedent, you don’t have to view them again. You go into EDRS and follow the steps in the PowerPoint to release it.
5. Again, the funeral home will not receive the cremation certificate UNTIL you indicate that payment was received. If it’s a funeral home you’re used to dealing with, you can still receive payment the way you currently are. NOW THIS IS A BIG CHANGE! If you receive a request from a funeral home you’re not used to using, DO NOT IGNORE IT! If you need to call them, that’s fine to coordinate payment. You need to follow the steps as you would for any cremation certificate. As I’ve been saying recently this past week, there is a CHANCE that a funeral home in another part of the state where you are located has the decedent. Therefore, they need to know how to pay you in the event they haven’t already talked to you. That’s why I’ve been collecting your address and preferred form of payment in the event the OCME is called.

Again, thank you for everyone who provided input and tested the system for us.

I’m going to put this up on the LME website for a quick reference. The funeral homes received the PowerPoint through their association and/or DHP who oversees all funeral homes in Virginia. If funeral homes have questions about the updated cremation module, they can contact their local OCME district office for assistance.

If you have any questions, please let me know. I will do my best to answer questions.

Keshia
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Keshia Singleton
State Project Manager
Office of the Chief Medical Examiner
400 East Jackson Street
Richmond, VA 23219
804.786.1032 office
804.371.8595 fax


June 23, 2020

CDC Considerations for Events and Gatherings

As the country has begun to re-open and we transition to a new normal, the CDC has issued updated guidance for public gatherings titled “Considerations for Events and Gatherings.”

This updated guidance emphasizes that “Event planners and officials can determine, in collaboration with state and local health officials, whether and how to implement these considerations, making adjustments to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the local community. Because COVID-19 virus circulation varies in communities, these considerations are meant to supplement—not replace—any state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which gatherings must comply. Organizers should continue to assess, based on current conditions, whether to postpone, cancel, or significantly reduce the number of attendees for gatherings.”

The guidance also emphasizes the importance of health habits such as discouraging people who are ill from attending public gatherings, promoting social distancing and encouraging hand hygiene.

We strongly encourage you to adhere to whatever public gathering limits have been put in place by your state and local public health officials.

Read the CDC’s updated guidance here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/large-events/considerations-for-events-gatherings.html.


June 23, 2020

6/23 VA Gov Northam COVID-19 Update

Updated numbers:
58,994 total positive cases, 627,248 total tests, and 1645 deaths
Statewide data looks good – hospitalizations, ICU admittance, and positive tests continue to trend downwards As of yesterday, Virginia has 1000 contract tracers on board. The Governor stressed that all Virginian’s should follow state guidelines about face masks, social distancing, and hand washing.

Phase III Reopening –
The guidelines for Phase II reopening can be found here. The Governor will allow Virginia to move into Phase III on July 1. So far, no locality has asked to remain in Phase II.

Long Term Care Reopening –
Late last week, the VDH release guidance to long term care facilities as to how they can reopen and the state is dedicating federal funding to help support these measures. The Governor has also directed VDH to release the names of all long term care facilities with outbreaks. He is not going to release the information for other areas of outbreak unless there is a public health concern. All information can be found on here on the Governor’s website.

Emergency Safety Standards/Dept. of Labor –
Executive Order 63 directed the Dept. of Labor to create new safety standards around four items: PPE in the workplace, sanitation, record keeping, and communications. Dept of Labor will meet this Wednesday to review these new, mandatory regulations and, if approved, will be immediately enforceable with penalties for failure to comply.

Unemployment Insurance –
Virginia doesn’t track the data around those individuals who refuse to return to work. Around 12,700 people have refused to go back to work but Virginia doesn’t track why they won’t return. Those who refuse return to work will have their cases for continued payment addressed during the adjudication and appeals process. People with health or childcare concerns go through an expedited process.


June 23, 2020

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June 18, 2020

FTC Funeral Rule comment period ends. . . what’s next?

The Federal Trade Commissions (FTC) “Funeral Rule” is up for review this summer and the comment period for public opinion into the rule ended on Monday. So, now that that period is over. . what comes next?

Read More


June 18, 2020

Legislative Update – Dual Licensing

Good Morning members. I wanted to reach out and send a message to everyone about the immediate future of the Dual License Legislation (SB1044). We have been anxiously awaiting the information from the State Board as to when meetings would be held. It seems as of now that the first meeting will be held in August and then a second September. Each participating group has been allowed one seat at the table so as to minimize the chaos when creating the new guidelines.

As we all know, this legislation has been polarizing. This committee was criticized for not having any information regarding this legislation prior to session. That was due to the fact that Senator McPike did not pre-file his legislation, and we did not know it existed until it was first presented. At that point in time we discussed the best plan going forward. Our thoughts were to remain neutral on the matter because our membership is split. Some of the membership did not approve of the neutral stance, and wanted us to be in favor, or in opposition. Those were positions we just felt we could not take. As time progressed, the bill began to lose traction. It was passed unanimously through the Senate, but once it reached the House, things changed. Once the first vote was delayed on a Friday from the floor, we immediately began reaching out to members who were opposed and asked them to reach out to their representation. And it began to work. Then vote was tallied the following Wednesday in a 76-18 vote, and perhaps another day would have changed the vote even further.

As spring progressed and COVID-19 overwhelmed everyone, Angie and I put our heads together and asked the Governor to re-consider the change prior to his signing of the legislation. We asked on behalf of our membership for him to consider one of two options. First, was to veto the legislation. Second, we asked for a delayed implementation. He chose not to go with either option. Just a few weeks ago, I was on a Zoom call with the Governor and he was approached with a letter by a funeral home owner from the Southside area (not a member of our association) asking for him to consider either of those things also. He was not willing to do so, and reminded those of us on the call that we would need to make any and all changes through legislation, and not through him.

Either way, here we are. We are roughly two months away from the first meeting and we continue to want more and more feedback. Some of you completed the Dual License Survey which provided excellent information.

You can download a Word document with the results of that survey here. I would encourage all to review not just the results of the survey, but also the comments as well. Our hope is that upon reading those comments, it will spur some ideas and you can add to the comments already made. From there, this committee will compile the results and make a plan of what are the most important issues for us to address during the meetings.

Again, please review the survey results and add any and all ideas you may have, even if you see them already listed. This shows us the importance of specific ideas and when we see the same ideas over and over, it will allow us to prioritize them.

Thanks,

Jay McIntyre, CFSP
VFDA First Vice President
VFDA Legislative Committee Chair


June 18, 2020

A Message from the Department of Veterans Services

Please see the letter dated June 17, 2020 from the Department of Veterans Services regarding Virginia Veterans Cemetery at Amelia, Albert G. Horton, Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery at Suffolk, and the Southwest Virginia Veterans Cemetery in Dublin.


June 16, 2020

6/16 VA Gov Northam COVID-19 Update

Updated Numbers:
55,331 positive cases, 5,643 hospitalizations, and 1,570 deaths.

Total case numbers continue to trending down, as is the number of people hospitalized. Virginia will not move into Phase III this week. On Thursday, the Administration will make announcements as to how Phase III will be structured. Going forward, the Virginia Dept of Health will give a greater demographic breakdown.

The Administration is working on the economic recovery and is looking to help small businesses and communities. Today the Governor announced a grant program to help 40 Virginia visual artists.


June 16, 2020

OCME Information for Funeral Directors
Cremation Module in EDRS

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has distributed the following information to funeral licensees, Using the New and Improved Cremation Module in EDRS: Information for Funeral Directors Clicking on the link will download the PowerPoint presentation for you to review.

The cremation module in the Electronic Death Reporting System (EDRS) is set to be updated around June 15, 2020. If you have any questions, please contact the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner


June 8, 2020

FTC Releases Funeral Home Compliance Results, Offers New Business Guidance on Funeral Rule Requirements

Read More


May 29, 2020

I am writing to remind you and your members that Executive Order 63 went into effect today which requires face coverings when entering state or local government buildings. There are exceptions to this requirement outlined in the order.

If you should have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Arkuie Williams, J.D.
Administrative Deputy
Office of the Chief Medical Examiner


May 26, 2020

5/26 VA Gov Northam COVID-19 Update

Updated Numbers:
39,342 new positive cases (298,270 total tests) and 1,236 deaths

The Governor addressed weekend media reports and pictures showing him without a face mask and in close proximity to the public. He said he was unprepared for the close encounters and that his point was to be there to meet with City officials, law enforcement and beach ambassadors, not to mingle with the public. The Governor has not been tested for coronavirus but will visit a Community Testing Site soon to show people how easy the process is for everyone.

Beaches –
The Governor complimented Virginia Beach on the way it handled the reopening the beaches. The Governor may allow other beach cities to reopen this weekend. If cities like Norfolk and Hampton give the Governor a solid reopening plan, he may allow them to reopening their beaches too.

NOVA, Accomack, and Richmond –
The health data and metrics for these regions are moving in the right direction. The goal is for northern Virginia and Accomack County to move into Phase I this Friday. The Administration will closely monitor the situation and the Governor will have more information on when these areas will move into Phase I later in the week. The Mayor of Richmond would like to have a modified Phase I reopening – keeping some businesses closed. The Governor is in discussions with the Mayor and will make an announcement in the next few days.

Phase II –
As we get closer to Friday, the Governor will determine when Virginia will enter Phase II.

Mandatory Masks –
Starting this Friday, everyone will have to wear a mask when inside any public building. The exceptions are: if you are eating/drinking in a restaurant, children under the age of 10 (though he believes all children 3+ should wear a mask whenever possible), if you are exercising, or have a medical condition. The Governor’s office is working to provide masks to vulnerable populations. Enforcement will be done by health officials – not law enforcement and the Administration does not want criminal penalties. The Administration will discuss civil penalties or special authority for the Governor with the General Assembly leaders as they prepare for the upcoming special session (July/August). The Governor is not ready to discuss how he will handle masks for students in K-12 and higher ed.

DOLI: New Emergency Temporary Standards –
The Governor has directed the VA Dept of Labor and Industry to develop new emergency temporary standards to deal with workplace safety. These will impact all employers, are meant to protect workers, and will contain penalties. DOLI can also enforce the Governor’s mask mandate in private businesses. These regulations can be made permanent through General Assembly actions this fall. Again, the Governor and his team stressed that employees who feel unsafe should 1) discuss with their employer and 2) file a complaint with the VA DOLI.


May 15, 2020

5/15 VA Gov Northam COVID-19 Update

Updated Numbers:
28,672 positive cases, 195,682 total tests, 3,657 hospitalizations, 977 deaths

VDH is working to eliminate healthy equity issues. As Virginia reopens and VDH begins tracing, equity will be at the forefront of their efforts. So far, VDH has received over 4000 applications for contract tracing positions. The Agency is also finalizing on-boarding plans for the new hires.

Phase I Reopening –
Today starts Phase I, a slight reduction in limitations, for most areas of Virginia. Not included are Northern Virginia, City of Richmond, and Accomack County. State revenue numbers are reflecting the downturn in the economy. The Governor continues to stress that people need to stay home as much as possible. No gathers of more than 10 people and face masks are strongly encouraged. When pressed by reporters, the Governor defended his decisions regarding which areas can reopen and how the Administration responded to requests from jurisdictions. The Administration continues to discuss beach openings with jurisdictions interested in reopening by Memorial Day and the Governor hopes to make an announcement on Monday.

April Revenue Reports –
This month’s revenue collects were down by approximately $700 million. The state budget impacts have been less severe due, in large part, to federal jobs and spending in Virginia. Additionally, sales tax revenue remained consistent as spending shifted. Much of the revenue loss came from the Governor’s decision to delay state tax payments. The current reopening plan will give the Administration much needed data to work through the state budget planning. Virginia has received over $6 billion in federal relief. Of that, $650 million will help localities cover their COVID-19 related costs and is expected to be distributed around June 1st. Another $121 million has been used to purchase PPE and testing supplies.

Worker Protections –
The DOLI will be investigating workplace complaints and issuing guidance to help protect workplace safety. The Administration is looking to provide financial relief through state funds.

Testing –
The Governor responded to concerns over how Virginia was collecting and reporting test data, primarily combining the antibody tests results with the positive testing data. The State will not combine the results moving forward.


May 13, 2020

5/13 VA Gov Northam COVID-19 Update

Updated Numbers:
26,746 total cases, 180,084 total tests, and 927 deaths.

Phase I –
Phase I will begin for all areas of the Commonwealth, except NOVA, on Friday, May 15th. The reopening includes limitations and restrictions for non-essential retail, restaurants, gyms, and personal grooming businesses. Detailed guidance is available here. During Phase I, childcare centers will prioritize the children of parents who must work. The state is promoting 866-KIDSTLC for parents in search of childcare. As Virginia reopens, it is possible that there will be a spike in cases so the Administration is preparing for a possible future surge. The Governor will use a “stick” if needed to get people and businesses to comply. He will empower agencies and law enforcement to go into businesses to enforce the guidelines.

Northern Virginia Delayed Opening –
The majority of Virginia’s positive cases are in NOVA. Several elected officials from northern Virginia spoke during the Governor’s press conference. The local leaders are concerned that their region is not ready and want the data, not the date, to determine their regional reopening.

Local Government Funding –
The Governor is sending $650 million, available through the CARES Act, to local governments to cover the costs of their COVID-19 responses.

DMV Reopening –
Eleven customer service centers in seven regions will begin re-opening on Monday, May 18th. These locations will only provide services for actions that are required to be done in-person (ex. original license, title, etc.) Services will be done by appointment only and customers will wait in their vehicles until it is their turn.

Testing –
Pharmacies and retailers will start expanding testing availability. The Administration is using CARES Act funding to pay for more testing and to increase their contract tracing workforce. The VA Dept. of Health is processing 3,000 applications for the 1,300 positions. Based upon recommendations from Harvard University, VDH is planning to have at least 15 contact tracers per 100,000 people. The number could increase to as high as 30 tracers per 100,000. The White House recommends testing all long term care residents and staff in the next two weeks. Virginia has approximately 260 long term care facilitates. The goal is to test all of the facilities but, it is not likely to happen within the next two week window.


May 12, 2020

Funeral service workers say lack of communication can put them at risk with COVID

Read the article


May 11, 2020

5/11 VA Gov Northam COVID-19 Update

Updated Numbers:
25,070 positive cases in Virginia. To date, 167,758 total tests have been administered and 853 have died from COVID-19.

Northern Virginia’s Regional Case for Reopening –
Phase I restrictions are a floor and regions may ask to move more slowly or have more restrictions. The Governor has daily communications with elected officials in northern Virginia. The leaders of several northern Virginia localities sent a joint letter to Governor Northam to formally asked to move at a slower rate into Phase I. Those leaders believe that the region does not meet the necessary metrics for “reopening” the regional economy. The area has more positive cases than any other area of the state and the Governor will work with them on a slower reopening schedule.

Testing and Health Equity Efforts –
Testing has continued to increase across the Commonwealth. Several community events were held over the weekend. The Administration, the Health Equity Task Force and Health Equity Working Group are working to provide access to increase testing, culturally appropriate educational materials, disease awareness guidance, and distribution of PPEs to underserved, at-risk, and minority communities throughout Virginia. Governor hopes to work with the retail community to increase community testing. News of this effort will be announced later in the week.

Testing and Tracing –
The Commonwealth is close to executing contracts for contact tracing and expect to hire a large number of “tracers” to help with the contact investigations. There are some concerns about having enough contact tracing personnel in NOVA if they reopen on Friday. The Department of Health is increasing their testing of long term care facilities too. No requests for testing have been denied.

Access to Running Water –
Some residents of Petersburg lost water service during the pandemic outbreak. The Health Commissioner issued an order forcing the City of Petersburg to reconnect service to 46 homes. No other jurisdictions may disconnect water service due to a failure to pay.

DMV –
All in-person offerings will be closed for, at least, another week. Online options remain available.

Elections –
More than 50 localities have upcoming local elections. Tomorrow, May 12th, is the last day to request an absentee ballot by mail. The Governor encourages all Virginians with local elections to request an absentee ballot.

Virginia Employment Commission –
The Agency has increased the number of employees, the number of call centers, and online capabilities to meet the growing demands. The Administration encourages applicants to take advantage of the online and call center options.

Employment Matters –
If the overtime is directly connected to COVID-19, it may be an eligible expense that is covered by federal funding. Most employers and employees are covered under workers compensation coverage. The legislature will have to determine if presumption under workers compensation will cover COVID-19 infections. There are increasing number of concerns from employees who have been offered their jobs back but they are 1) concerned about their safety, 2) do not have adequate and safe childcare options, or 3) they are making more income through unemployment payments.


May 11, 2020

Funeral Homes Fall Under the Governor’s Phase 1, Places of Worship

Dear VFDA Members:

The Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade confirmed that funeral homes fall under the Governor’s Phase 1, places of worship.

“The Guidelines for Religious Services should apply to funeral homes to the extent that there is a religious component to the funeral. Executive Order 61 is now posted, so you should consult that text as well as the Guidelines for Religious Services regarding how you may operate.”

CLICK HERE FOR EO-61
Those funeral homes that wish to remain on the more restrictive guidelines may do so.


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