News/Press Releases

 

February 11, 2021

Public Comment Period Opened and Upcoming CEU

Public Comment Period Opened on Guidance Documents

Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers
Agency: Department of Health Professions
Guidance Document: Inspection Guidance Document
View this Guidance Document Public Comment Forum

Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers
Agency: Department of Health Professions
Guidance Document: Processing applications for licensure
View this Guidance Document Public Comment Forum

Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers
Agency: Department of Health Professions
Guidance Document: Guidance for education and pathology coursework for licensure as a funeral director [NEW]
View this Guidance Document Public Comment Forum

Virtual CEU on March 11
2021 Virginia General Assembly and Legislative Update

The Virginia Funeral Directors Association (VFDA) is offering its members FREE virtual continuing education programs as a thank you for your commitment to the VFDA and the funeral service profession. We understand that in these trying times, it is difficult to stay on top of your continuing education requirements and we hope this series will help you and your staff receive the required courses you need.

** Must pre-register for the programs and must be a VFDA member in good standing**

Thursday, March 11 at 4:00 p.m. EST
1 hour program (1 CEU)
Register below (up until the day of the event)
Registrants will receive a confirmation e-mail and a Zoom virtual meeting invitation with login and password information prior to the virtual continuing education class.

** PLEASE ADD lwhittaker@vfda.net TO YOUR EMAIL CONTACTS AND/OR CHECK YOUR SPAM**

Register Here


February 11, 2021

FEMA Funeral Assistance for COVID-19

CLICK THE FOLLOWING LINK BELOW FOR NEWS ARTICLE:
FEMA to reimburse families for COVID funerals | WSET

FEMA Funeral Assistance for COVID-19
January 25, 2021

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 mandated that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provide Funeral Assistance for deaths associated with the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and appropriated funding to the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) for such purposes. This Insight discusses these provisions, and provides an overview of FEMA Funeral Assistance, including eligible expenses, considerations for determining award amounts, and applicant eligibility criteria per FEMA’s guidance.

FEMA IA for the COVID-19 Pandemic
Funeral Assistance is a form of Other Needs Assistance (ONA) that is available when the Individuals and Households Program (IHP)—a type of Individual Assistance (IA)—is authorized. FEMA provides various forms of assistance when authorized by the President pursuant to a presidential declaration of emergency or major disaster under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act; 42 U.S.C. §§5121 et seq.). In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, former President Donald J. Trump issued a nationwide emergency declaration under Stafford Act Section 501(b), and subsequently, between the end of March and early May 2020, approved major disaster declaration requests for 50 states, 5 territories, the District of Columbia, and the Seminole Tribe of Florida under Stafford Act Section 401.

The only forms of IA authorized pursuant to these major disaster declarations were Crisis Counseling Assistance (CCP) and Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) (a form of ONA). All jurisdictions that received major disaster declarations were authorized to provide CCP with the exceptions of American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. These CCP requests were still under review as of December 7, 2020. Only South Dakota and American Samoa did not participate in the LWA program.

Although many governors requested IHP assistance for the COVID-19 pandemic and some Members of Congress called upon FEMA to provide it, IHP assistance has not been authorized for any of the COVID-19 pandemic declarations. Requests for additional forms of IA were still under review as of January 25, 2021.
Congress, through the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, authorized the provision of Funeral Assistance for the COVID-19 declarations. Authorizing additional forms of assistance in this way is uncommon (CRS found few examples of legislation mandating the provision of specific types of FEMA assistance).

Congressional Research Service
https://crsreports.congress.gov
IN11582
Congressional Research Service 2

Funeral Assistance for the COVID-19 Pandemic
Title II of Division M of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 appropriated an additional $2,000,000,000 to the DRF to carry out the work of Section 201 of Title II, which requires FEMA to provide Funeral Assistance through the IHP for the presidential Stafford Act declarations of emergency issued on March 13, 2020, and subsequent major disaster declarations associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides reimbursements for such expenses incurred through December 31, 2020, at a 100% federal cost share.

The Funeral Assistance provided through the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, has a more limited period of assistance than the IHP usually does. IHP assistance is usually provided for up to 18 months following a declaration (unless extended by FEMA), which, if authorized for the COVID-19 declarations, would run until around the end of September to early November 2021. This Funeral Assistance, however, is only available for expenses incurred through December 31, 2020.

Additionally, although the federal cost share for ONA is set at 75% in statute, Congress has the ability to adjust the federal cost share of ONA through legislation, as was done in this case.

According to FEMA, the agency is currently “reviewing the legislation [Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021] and evaluating potential options for implementation.”
Eligible Expenses

FEMA provides Funeral Assistance for disaster-caused funeral expenses. Not all of the expenses associated with the death of a household member are eligible for Funeral Assistance. FEMA’s guidance lists eligible expenses associated with interment or reinterment, which include:

· remains transfer;
· caskets/urns;
· burial plots/cremation niches;
· markers/headstones; and
· additional state/local/territorial/tribal (SLTT) government mandated expenses.
Eligible interment expenses include:
· transportation to identify the deceased (up to two people), if required by SLTT authorities;
· interment;
· funeral services;
· clergy/officiant services; and
· death certificate costs (up to five).
Eligible reinterment expenses include:
· reinterment;
· funeral services (with limitations); and
· the cost of identifying disinterred remains.
Congressional Research Service 3
Ineligible expenses include costs associated with:
· obituaries;
· flowers;
· printed materials (e.g., programs);
· catering;
· transporting people to funeral services or interment/reinterment sites; and
· gratuities.

Determining Award Amounts
Eligible applicants may receive different Funeral Assistance award amounts. Considerations relevant to the amount of assistance eligible individuals and households may receive include:

· the state-set maximum amount of Funeral Assistance that may be awarded per death or per household. This is set by the state in its “ONA Administrative Option Selection” form (the amount of assistance an individual or household may be eligible to receive for all types of ONA for a single emergency or major disaster is capped at $35,500 for FY2020); and

· funeral expenses covered by other sources (e.g., burial insurance), and financial assistance provided by voluntary agencies, government programs/agencies, or other entities.

Not every applicant will necessarily receive the maximum Funeral Assistance award amount. An applicant’s award amount will depend on their unmet needs (the remaining dollar amount based on the cost of the eligible expenses they incurred or will incur minus any insurance or assistance from other sources, up to the maximum award amount for Funeral Assistance set by the state). Applicants may appeal FEMA award decisions.

Applicant Eligibility Criteria
Individuals and households may apply for Funeral Assistance if they meet the general IHP eligibility criteria and the criteria for Funeral Assistance.

To receive any IHP assistance, an applicant must be a U.S. citizen, noncitizen national, or qualified alien, and must have disaster-caused needs and necessary expenses that are not covered by insurance or other assistance. FEMA must also be able to verify their identity. In addition, to receive Funeral Assistance, an applicant must provide:

· official documentation directly or indirectly attributing the death to the declared disaster (e.g., an official death certificate);
· receipts or verifiable estimates indicating the applicant incurred or will incur eligible expenses; and
· documentation of burial insurance and financial assistance from other sources.

Analyst in Emergency Management and Disaster Recovery Disclaimer
This document was prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS). CRS serves as nonpartisan shared staff to congressional committees and Members of Congress. It operates solely at the behest of and under the direction of Congress. Information in a CRS Report should not be relied upon for purposes other than public understanding of information that has been provided by CRS to Members of Congress in connection with CRS’s institutional role. CRS Reports, as a work of the United States Government, are not subject to copyright protection in the United States. Any CRS Report may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety without permission from CRS. However, as a CRS Report may include copyrighted images or material from a third party, you may need to obtain the permission of the copyright holder if you wish to copy or otherwise use copyrighted material

The VFDA will send additional information as we continue to research and follow FEMA.


January 27, 2021

Virginia Enacts First-in-the-Nation Permanent COVID-19 Workplace Safety and Health Standards Amid Pandemic

~ Governor Northam approves standard recently adopted by Safety and Health Codes Board, rules are effective beginning today ~

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of Governor Ralph S. Northam

Office of the Governor
Alena.Yarmosky@governor.virginia.gov

RICHMOND— Virginia’s permanent COVID-19 workplace safety and health rules take effect today, after Governor Northam approved the standard adopted by the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s Safety and Health Codes Board last week. The standards mandate appropriate personal protective equipment, sanitation, social distancing, infectious disease preparedness and response plans, record keeping, training, and hazard communications in workplaces across the Commonwealth.

“While the end of this pandemic is finally in sight, the virus is still spreading, including several highly contagious variants, and now is not the time to let up on preventative measures,” said Governor Northam. “I am grateful to the many businesses and organizations who have been with us throughout this process and continue to take the necessary steps to operate safely. These standards will reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure and protect the health and safety of Virginia workers, consumers, and communities as we move our Commonwealth forward together.”

In the absence of a federal standard, Virginia took action last year to create the nation’s first emergency temporary workplace safety and health requirements in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The permanent standards align closely with the emergency temporary rules adopted in July and are intended to slow the transmission of COVID-19 and protect Virginia workers. The temporary standards were effective for six months and the Board worked to make permanent through the process defined in state law. These workplace safety requirements will remain effective throughout the pandemic. The Board will reconvene within 14 days of the expiration of Governor Northam’s COVID-19 emergency declaration to determine whether there is a continued need for the standard.

“No Virginia worker should have to weigh their family’s economic security against their physical safety,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy. “These permanent standards provide workers with essential recourse if faced with this untenable decision while giving businesses a clear understanding of the steps they must take to maintain a safe working environment.”

In addition to requiring all public-facing employees to wear masks, the standards ensure ready access to hand sanitizer and the regular cleaning of common work spaces. Employers must train employees on COVID-19 safety and to develop infectious disease and preparedness response plans. The new permanent regulations include guidelines for returning to work and communicating about employees who test positive and potential exposures. The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry will enforce the permanent standard.

After receiving a complaint, the Department works with the employer to be compliant with no further investigation. If serious concerns arise in the fact finding interviews or the Department receives multiple complaints, a formal investigation will be launched. The Department has received over 13,000 complaints around workplace safety due to COVID-19, with 100 needing full investigation due to serious concerns and 27 employers being cited.

“These scientifically based standards will help keep Virginia’s workers and their families safe during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Ray Davenport. “We look forward to working together with the business and labor communities to achieve compliance and safe workplaces across the Commonwealth.”

At least six other states have adopted comprehensive COVID-19 workplace safety standards in the months since Virginia’s first-in-the-nation emergency temporary standard went into effect. On January 21, President Biden signed an executive order directing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue guidance for employers on keeping workers safe and preventing COVID-19 exposure by March 15.

The final permanent standard can be found here. Infectious disease preparedness and response plan templates and training guidance are available at doli.virginia.gov. Workers who feel unsafe in their workplace can file a formal complaint with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration here.

Full Release


January 26, 2021

FTC Shake-Up May Impact Funeral Rule Review

By T. Scott Gilligan, NFDA General Counsel

Last year, the FTC initiated a review of the Funeral Rule to determine if it needed to be updated or modified. NFDA, along with 784 other interested parties, submitted written comments to the FTC by its June 15, 2020, deadline. Funeral Rule Coordinator Patti Poss is now in the process of reviewing and evaluating these comments. It would then be up to FTC senior staff to recommend to the five FTC commissioners whether to initiate a formal review of the Funeral Rule (this has only been done once in the rule’s 37-year history).

However, the election of Joe Biden has apparently caused a shake-up at the top of the commission that could impact the Funeral Rule review in several ways. On January 19, 2021, FTC Chairperson Joseph Simons announced that he was departing the commission on January 29, 2021. In addition to Simons’ departure, key senior staff members are also leaving the FTC. The director and deputy director of the Bureau of Competition, the director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection and the FTC general counsel will all leave their posts in the next month.

Another major change to the five-member commission’s makeup has been hinted at this week. Rohat Chopra, a liberal Democrat commission member, is rumored to be President Biden’s next chair of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). If that appointment takes place, it would create a second FTC vacancy, which Biden would fill.

The FTC is traditionally split, with three members from the president’s political party and two from the other party. With the departure of Simons (a Republican) and Chopra (a Democrat), Biden will be appointing two Democrats, thereby swinging the commission to a Democrat majority.
What does this mean for the Funeral Rule review? While no one can say for certain, as a general rule, Democrats tend to lean more toward consumers while Republicans traditionally favor business interests. Therefore, the appointment of two Democrats may push the commission more toward modifying the Funeral Rule to add provisions advocated by consumer interest groups, such as requiring funeral homes to post price lists on their websites.

The departure of Chairperson Simons may also be detrimental to positions advocated by NFDA on behalf of funeral service. Simons was a protégé of former FTC Chairman Tim Muris, who was opposed to the Funeral Rule when he worked at the FTC. NFDA stressed in its comments on the review of the Funeral Rule that Muris accurately predicted that the rule would not lead to the promised benefits of increased price competition and a decrease in funeral pricing. It was hoped that the empirical evaluation of how the Funeral Rule failed to deliver its promised benefits would resonate with Simons’ economist background.

On the other hand, Rohat Chopra has shown himself to be an outspoken proponent of consumer protection issues. He is also on the record as criticizing the level of funeral home compliance with the Funeral Rule. If he resigns from the commission to take the CFPB chair, it will be a loss for proponents of expanding the rule to require price lists be posted online.

Another possible result of the mass exodus of senior staff could be further delay in the review of the Funeral Rule. It will take months for the new Biden administration to appoint and obtain confirmation of two new commissioners, as well as senior staff members. And as with any new administration taking charge, there will be a number of new issues that the FTC will be charged with handling, which could further push the review of the Funeral Rule down the pecking order of FTC priorities.

This article originally appeared in the January 20, 2021, issue of the Memorial Business Journal.

LendingUSA Offers PPP Loans
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You can apply now through a simple 6-step form.
Please call LendingUSA at 855-416-8240 with any questions.

Free Life Insurance Policy Locator Tool Helps Virginians Recover More Than $37 Million
Contact: Ford Carson
Phone: 804-371-9141
Email: Ford.Carson@scc.virginia.gov

RICHMOND – Between January 1, 2017 and January 1, 2021, a free service provided by life insurance companies has helped 2,996 Virginia residents recover $37,338,096 pledged to them as beneficiaries of life insurance policies and annuity contracts. The State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance encourages any Virginian looking for lost or misplaced life insurance policies or annuity contracts (whether issued in Virginia or elsewhere) to take advantage of the free Life Insurance Policy Locator, which is offered through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).

Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott A. White applauded the service’s success and security, noting that it has helped consumers recover more than $1.1 billion nationwide since 2017. “By using secure technology, the service helps consumers obtain money that is rightfully theirs via life insurance and annuity contracts,” he said.

According to the NAIC, there are currently 12,853 insurance companies across the United States participating in the Policy Locator program.
The free locator service can help those who are a beneficiary of a life insurance policy or annuity contract, as well as those who are the executor or legal representative of someone who has passed away. To use the service, you should submit a search request form and follow these steps:

  • Gather as much information about the deceased policyholder as possible, including their full name (along with maiden name, if applicable), Social Security number, date of birth, the state where they purchased the policy, name of the insurance company, and the person or organization who sold the policy or contract.
  • Obtain a copy of the individual’s death certificate.
  • Visit the SCC Bureau of Insurance website (https://bit.ly/3qNpWja) and click on “Life Insurance” or the NAIC website (https://bit.ly/2Moz2nu) and complete as many fields as possible.

Requests made through the locator service are encrypted and secured to maintain confidentiality. Once a request is submitted, the NAIC will ask participating companies to search their records on your behalf using the information provided. If there is a match, a company usually responds to the person who submitted the request within 90 business days, assuming the person submitting the request is the designated beneficiary or is authorized to receive information.

When a life insurance company knows that an annuitant or policyholder has died but cannot locate the beneficiaries of the policy or annuity contract, the company – under Virginia law – must turn over the benefits to the state’s unclaimed property office if those benefits are not claimed after a certain number of years. If you know the state in which a life insurance policy or annuity contract was written, you also should check with that state’s insurance department or the office that handles unclaimed property.

To avoid lost policies, the Bureau of Insurance encourages Virginians to:

  • Keep beneficiary information up to date.
  • Alert beneficiaries of the policy and provide them with the names of the servicing agent and the insurance company that issued the policy.
  • Place a current copy of the life insurance policy in a safe and accessible place with wills and estate documents, and ask the insurance company for an annual policy statement if one is not provided.

For questions or additional information about the policy locator and other life and health insurance matters, contact the Consumer Services Section of the Virginia Bureau of Insurance Life and Health Division toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 or in Richmond at 804-371-9691 or visit www.scc.virginia.gov/pages/Insurance.


January 12, 2021

Funeral Home Verification of Employment for COVID Vaccination Purposes

NFDA has provided a form that funeral homes can use to verify employment for their employees who are getting priority vaccinations. Some states may require the funeral home to verify employment in order for the employee to receive the vaccination, this form can be that verification.


January 8, 2021

Central Virginia Health District & Centra COVID-19 Vaccination Sign-ups

The Central Virginia Health District and Centra have combined to offer a couple of different ways to get your patient-facing healthcare personnel vaccinated. Please see the details below and please be flexible with us as vaccine supply is unpredictable and could quickly change these plans.

Vaccinate Your Own Staff

For practices in the Central Virginia Health District Only (Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford, Campbell, Lynchburg):

If your practice is able to answer yes to all of the following 3 questions there is potential for your practice to receive Moderna Vaccine via redistribution from the Central Virginia Health District (CVHD) to administer to your own staff starting the week of January the 4th. Please contact the Central Virginia Health District by email at michelle.warden@vdh.virginia.gov with Cc: to ruby.jones@vdh.virginia.gov and provide the number of patient-facing staff to be vaccinated.

1. Have you filled out both a) the VDH COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Intent Form and b) the CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program Provider and Profile. Links to each follow.
2. VDH COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Intent Form
3. CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program Provider and Profile
4. Are you willing and able to vaccinate your own staff if you have vaccine?
5. Does your practice employ 25 or more patient-facing staff members?

If you are not able to answer yes to all of the questions above then continue on to see how your patient-facing staff can get vaccinated through Centra. We also encourage you to fill out the necessary paperwork in #1 above in preparation to vaccinate the community in future phases.

Get Vaccinated Through Centra

Centra Health has been working over the past two weeks to develop a COVID Vaccine Distribution Plan (attached). This plan follows CDC and Virginia Department of Health recommended guidelines for vaccinating Centra Caregivers and external healthcare personnel as quickly and efficiently as possible. Our initial focus was on Waves 1 and 2 as described in the plan.

Our service area for vaccine distribution is restricted to those working in Amelia, Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford, Buckingham, Campbell, Charlotte, Cumberland, Lunenburg, Nottoway, Pittsylvania and Prince Edward Counties and the city of Lynchburg.

Effective December 30, 2020, we have opened Wave 3 vaccine scheduling. Wave 3 includes: All external patient-facing healthcare personnel, volunteers, students currently rotating at Centra, and Centra Caregivers not yet vaccinated.

Please note the following:
· This is geographically restricted to those working in the geographies listed above
· Examples of those eligible: Surgery Center of Lynchburg, Gastroenterology Associates, Centra Support Services Departments

We have vaccine clinics at:
Lynchburg General Hospital
1920 Atherholt Rd
Lynchburg, VA 24501
(First Colony 1 & 2 Conference Room)

Bedford Memorial Hospital
1613 Oakwood St
Bedford, VA 24523
(Report to the hospital main entrance)

Southside Community Hospital
800 Oak St, Farmville, VA 23901
(Old Admin Hallway on the 2nd floor)

To expedite scheduling, we are encouraging participation in our block scheduling for COVID vaccine administration. Please complete the attached spreadsheet that includes the required information we need to get your caregivers scheduled into the system. This is only applicable to those who wish to receive the COVID Vaccine. If convenient, feel free to group your caregivers into teams in this list so that we are not scheduling them all at the same time and leaving your sites unmanned. Please return this spreadsheet to Tim.Lee@centrahealth.com with all completed fields. The vaccine appointment date and time given will be at least a 48 hour lead time. We appreciate your flexibility in adhering to the dates and times reserved for your caregivers due to the immense number of appointments we are scheduling for this important initiative.

If needed, your staff can call and schedule appointments for the Lynchburg and Bedford sites by calling 434.200.5939 or for Farmville by calling 434-315-2430 or emailing CSCHCovidScheduling@centrahealth.com. Please note that we are experiencing high call volumes and we are working to provide appointment times as quickly as possible.

Please ensure that your caregivers bring the following items on their vaccine administration date:
1. Copy of Driver’s License (Front and Back) or actual Driver’s License
2. Copy of Insurance Card (Front and Back) or actual insurance card.

Preferred method is a legible copy of the front and back of each of the above items.

There is no charge for the vaccine itself however Centra will bill an individual’s insurance for a vaccine administration fee. It is important to note, they will not be responsible for the vaccine administration fee if it is not covered by their health insurance provider. If they do not have health insurance, they will not be charged for the vaccine administration fee.

As supply increases, we anticipate the vaccine becoming available to the community at large, but for the moment, the charge given to us by the federal government and the Virginia Department of Health is to vaccinate healthcare personnel.

Best wishes for a healthy 2021 to all!

Kerry Gateley, M.D., MPH, CPE Health Director
Central Virginia Health District, West Piedmont Health District
307 Alleghany Ave.
Lynchburg, VA 24501
(434) 477-5949

Michael Elliott, PharmD, MSHA, FACHE
Senior Vice President & Chief Transformation Officer
Centra
Executive Administration
Centra Support Building
2310 Langhorne Road, Lynchburg, VA 24501
P 434.200.4552 M 434.944.5170
centrahealth.com | michael.elliott@centrahealth.com

Pat Young, MS MT-ASCP
Director, Community Health
Centra
Lynchburg General Hospital
1901 Tate Springs Road, Lynchburg, VA 24501
Office 434.200.4041
Mobile 540.580.9585
centrahealth.com | pat.young@centrahealth.com


January 8, 2021

CDC Guidelines on Essential Workers Guidelines – Mortuary Service Providers

The Virginia Department of Health has updated its COVID Vaccine site today.

To learn more on category 1B, click on the link below for an in-depth guide on who is included in 1B and references a CDC Guidelines on Essential Workers Guidelines document.

Reference pages 9-10 of the CDC guidelines:

Mortuary service providers, such as:

Workers performing mortuary funeral, cremation, burial, cemetery, and related services, including funeral homes, crematoriums, cemetery workers, and coffin makers.

The Governor stated today that each Health District needs to deplete their supply of vaccines, which is why we will see some movement from 1A to 1B in each district.


December 29, 2020

Funeral homes find new ways to care for families — and for their own staffs
from the Roanoke Times – December 28, 2020

Nurses, doctors and emergency responders are the people most often identified as being on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Mike Hamlar, president of Hamlar-Curtis Funeral Home & Crematory in Roanoke, believes that list is incomplete.

“Funeral service professionals are first responders, too,” he said.

The staff at Hamlar-Curtis comes into contact with people who died from COVID-19 and with their families, who may also be infected. It’s a factor during the removal process and also when holding services.

“But we handle the person’s loved one with care,” he said. “And it’s personal, you’re up close and personal with these folks, with the decedents.”

Naturally, Hamlar said, the funeral home’s staff worries about their own health and safety.

“I honestly believe if you say you’re not concerned, you’re not being truthful with yourself,” he said.

In the early days of the pandemic, Hamlar self-quarantined from his wife and kids. He said the hardest part was having to decline a hug from his 7-year-old son. He has since loosened his self-imposed restrictions but continues to take precautions — he showers at the office and changes his clothes before heading home. Still, he feels like they don’t hug quite as much anymore. They favor the elbow bump these days.

The Virginia Funeral Directors Association is working to have its members formally recognized as essential health care workers by the state.

Lacy Whittaker, executive director of the association, said this designation is important to make sure funeral directors have the resources they need to protect themselves and their staff while supporting grieving families.

“Can you imagine what a hospital would look like if a funeral director wasn’t standing at the back door to make removals?” Whittaker said.

A letter making the request was sent to Gov. Ralph Northam on Dec. 14.

“As deathcare professionals, we face the same risk of exposure to COVID-19 as healthcare workers when we enter hospitals, nursing homes, and residences to take the body of a decedent into our care,” the letter states. “We meet with surviving family members who may have been exposed to the coronavirus. And we prepare the bodies of pandemic victims for burial or cremation.”

Whittaker said she believes more support from the community, as well as recognition from the governor and legislators, would mean a lot to funeral directors.

“This industry, people may not realize, you see people, work with people, you worship with people, you’re in the community with people, you see them one day and then the next day they’re on your embalming table,” Hamlar said.

That’s always hard, he said, but especially so during a global pandemic.

Hamlar is doing some small things to help his employees cope with the added stress. On days without services, they can dress more casually. And Hamlar makes sure everyone is well-fed, often buying lunch for the staff.

People might think funeral homes benefit financially from COVID-19, Hamlar said, but that’s a misconception. Many families are not holding services or are choosing cremation, which does have an impact on the business’ bottom line.

Hamlar said he’s frustrated by people who doubt the seriousness and severity of COVID-19. If they had to tell the parents of a 30-something that their child died because of it, or help them through their grief, they might feel differently.

New ways to share grief

Chris Tharp, owner and manager of Tharp Funeral Home & Crematory, which has locations in the Roanoke Valley and Lynchburg area, said he feels his employees are most affected by the stories of loved ones who can’t be at the side of a spouse or parent in their final weeks or months.

“Hearing their stories, watching them cry and the impact that has, we call it the proximity to grief,” Tharp said.

Funeral directors are often thought of as stoic. But in reality, Tharp said, they are empathetic people who want to help others. With so many services delayed or dramatically scaled back, many of the people they serve can’t truly begin to work through their grief. Tharp said that weighs heavily on funeral staff.

“They really can’t have the celebration of life services and remembrance services or visitation with friends services that have been in human tradition for millennia,” he said.

There’s a phrase Tharp said is taught in mortuary school: “Grief shared is grief diminished.” Coming together as a church, community or family to tell stories and share memories is essential to the process.

On a recent trip to the grocery store, Tharp ran into a client whose father had died about a month ago. She told Tharp it felt as if her dad “just disappeared” because the family had not held a service for him.

“From our staff’s perspective, it just wears them down because we can’t provide them the usual mechanisms for healing,” Tharp said.

In terms of support for employees, Tharp said everyone is trying to be patient and recognize that people are concerned not just about their own health, but that of loved ones as well. There’s also “lots of elbow bumps.”

“The biggest thing we’re doing is just validating the concern and not pretending it’s not something to take seriously,” Tharp said.

At times, Tharp said, the funeral home has been short-staffed when its own employees have been personally affected by COVID, putting more pressure and stress on those covering for a colleague.

Extra precautions

Buck Simmons, owner of Valley Funeral Home and Cremation Service in Roanoke, said it’s hard to tell grieving families they have to significantly limit the number of guests who can attend a service.

“They’re already going through emotions with the death of their loved one, and now they’ve got to deal with this COVID,” he said.

Funeral home staff always have to be careful when handling bodies to protect their own health, Simmons said. Now COVID-19 is another thing to worry about.

When discussing funeral services, tears are common. That means people in the building are wiping their eyes and their noses, Simmons said. Additional sanitation is required as a result.

In general, Simmons said his business does more cremations than traditional funerals; he estimated the former make up about 75% of his business. He said the pandemic may prompt some people to choose cremation, given the limitations on in-person services.

Keeping spirits high is always a challenge, Simmons said. But relief comes by helping others through their grief.

“You’ve got to realize that every day we come to work, somebody’s either sad or crying,” he said. “In order to keep ourselves where we don’t emotionally get torn down, it’s to give the families the best service we can give them, regardless of what type service they are getting from us.”

A ‘glimmer of hope’

The last nine months have been anxious ones for the employees of Roanoke-based Oakey’s, said President Sammy Oakey.

“We talk about it. I think that helps,” he said. “We don’t try to hide it.”

He said the funeral home has been strict with staff and guests about masks, social distancing and not coming in when feeling sick. But still, there’s risk.

“We know that we could easily have a case that comes in through our preparation room on a body, or we could have a case come in through the front door with somebody attending a visitation or a funeral or simply coming in to make arrangements,” Oakey said.

Oakey’s makes professional counseling available to its employees through a Carilion Clinic program, Oakey said, although he hasn’t noticed an increase in the number of people who have used the service.

The “minor skirmishes” employees continue to have with people who don’t want to wear a mask or who wear them improperly are another stressor. Recently, Oakey said, someone who had tested positive wanted to come into the funeral home for a service, a request that of course had to be denied.

Grieving is never easy, Oakey said, but it’s especially challenging with COVID-19, which can come on suddenly and often isolates its victims from loved ones.

“That is really tough to see. Our hearts go out to anyone who loses a loved one, but when you lose a loved one to such a thing as COVID where you can’t be close to them and where you know that their last days were very difficult, it’s a little unnerving for us,” he said. “We try to give everybody extra TLC that has gone through that.”

The public may not be aware of the toll the pandemic has taken on those who work in the funeral industry. The attention — “rightfully so,” Oakey said — has been centered on doctors, nurses and EMTs. But he said the funeral industry should not be forgotten.

The vaccine has provided a “glimmer of hope,” Oakey said. He received notice from the National Funeral Directors Association that it had successfully lobbied to have funeral directors included in the highest priority group for the vaccine.

Oakey said he’s never worked under such conditions before. He remembers hearing that his great-grandfather went months without a day off during the 1918 flu pandemic. Now that he’s living through something similar, Oakey said he wished he’d paid closer attention to those stories.

Read the article on The Roanoke Times website


December 13, 2020

REPORT BY REGULATORY SUPPORT SERVICES

On Thursday, December 10, 2020, Governor Northam issued Executive Order 72 that contains new restrictions due to concerns over increases in new COVID-19 cases in the Commonwealth.

According to the Order, all individuals in Virginia should remain at their place of residence between the hours of 12:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. Individuals may leave their residences for the purposes that include obtaining food, beverages, goods, or services as permitted in the Order; seeking medical attention, essential social services, governmental services, assistance from law enforcement, or emergency services; taking care of other individuals or animals; traveling required by court order or to facilitate child custody, visitation, or child care and traveling to and from a place of worship or work. The Order also imposes a reduction in the number of people allowed for in person gatherings from 25 people to a limit of 10 people. This applies to indoor and outdoor gatherings but does not apply to religious services, employment settings, or educational settings. Readers will recall previous clarification from the Governor’s office that funeral are deemed religious service if there is a religious component. In our opinion, visitations without a religious component are classified as social gathering, thus the new limit will apply to visitations in those circumstances. The Order modifies the mask mandate to require all Virginians aged five and over to wear face coverings in indoor settings shared with others and when outdoors within six feet of another person. There are some exemptions for mandate.

The new measures take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, December 14 and remain in place through January 31, 2021, unless rescinded or amended.

The full order can be read here

Also, as a reminder, below are our questions regarding the previous order with the answers from the Governor’s office in red font. There is nothing in the new order that changes these answers, however we have taken the liberty to change the number “25” to “10” to comport with the new Order.

1)- The order explains that the presence of more than 10 individuals performing functions of their employment or assembled in an educational instructional setting is not a “gathering.” However, are businesses required to include employees along with nonemployees within the limit of 10 that gather at the place of business for events that are not religious services? Employees (and non-employees such as a minister, organist, soloist, etc.) should not be counted in the 10 persons gathered to attend a funeral.

2)- Do the limits apply per room of a facility or to the entire facility? A facility may host wholly separate gatherings of up to 10 persons per room.

3)- May a funeral home allow rotation of visitors so long as no more than 10 people are gathered at any one time in the room/facility? This would be permissible so long as the groups of 10 persons remain separate at all times.

4)- Amended Executive Order 67 does not limit attendance at religious services to the lower of either 250 people or 50% of occupancy limits of the room/facility. Does this order repeal or supersede the provisions of Executive Order 61 that had such limits? The guidance for “religious services” is as follows:
Individuals may attend religious services of more than 10 people subject to the following requirements:

a. Individuals attending religious services must be at least six feet apart when seated and must practice proper physical distancing at all times. Family members, as defined below, may be seated together.

b. Mark seating and common areas where attendees may congregate in six-foot increments to maintain physical distancing between persons who are not Family members.

c. Any items used to distribute food or beverages must be disposable, used only once and discarded.

d. Practice routine cleaning and disinfection of frequently-contacted surfaces must be conducted prior to and following any religious service.

e. Post signage at the entrance that states that no one with a fever or symptoms of COVID-19 is permitted to participate in the religious service.

f. Post signage to provide public health reminders regarding physical distancing, gatherings, options for high risk individuals, and staying home if sick.

g. Individuals attending religious services must wear cloth face coverings in accordance with Amended Executive Order 63, Order of Public Health Emergency Five.

h. If religious services cannot be conducted in compliance with the above requirements, they must not be held in-person.


December 8, 2020

Year End Checklist Plus New COVID Poster

Here is a checklist that is helpful in preparing for the year ahead:

Virginia Employment Law Checklist for 2021

In addition, please note that the Virginia Department of Health just issued yesterday this new COVID poster regarding return to work.

Information provided by By Karen Elliott and Brendan Horgan, Eckert Seamans Attorneys at Law


August 26, 2020

Public comment period for the proposed revisions to Board Guidance Document 76-21.3:1 Inspection report for funeral establishments

The public comment period for the proposed revisions to Board Guidance Document 76-21.3:1 Inspection report for funeral establishments, closes at 11:59 pm on September 16, 2020. The planned effective date is September 17, 2020.

The proposed changes add entries under: SECTION VI IMMEDIATE BURIAL for Immediate burial with highest priced casket; SECTION VII DIRECT CREMATION for Direct cremation with highest priced casket acceptable for cremation; and to the acknowledgement page by changing the establishment’s acknowledgment from Signature & Title of Applicant to Signature & Title of Establishment Representative.

Public comment periods serve an especially important function in the process of crafting public policy. This is your opportunity to make comments regarding these proposed changes. Click here to access the Virginia Town Hall page.


August 17, 2020

UPDATE
COVID-19/Infectious Disease Exposure Control Plan
Report from Regulatory Support Services

The new Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) became effective when it was published on July 27 in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. However, there are three major deferred effective dates:

1 – The requirement to train employees on the ETS, EXCEPT training on the employer’s COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan, takes effect August 26. This means the requirement to provide training begins on August 26 not that training must be done by August 26.

2 – The requirement for employer’s to implement a COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan goes into effect September 25.

3 – The requirement to train employees on that plan also goes into effect on September 25. This means the requirement to provide training on the plan begins on September 25, not that training must be done by September 25.

RSS training will cover all required elements, not just the part due by August 26.

P O Box 3130, Durham NC 27715
804.784.7347
mail@regulatorysupportservices.com

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
(First reported by Marina Lee for Regulatory Support Services LinkedIn page)

Regulations relating to the FFCRA promulgated by the Department of Labor (DOL) have been invalidated by a federal court in New York. The invalidated regulations gave guidance to employers and employees about how to apply the laws under FFCRA and the related laws Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA).

Direct your attention to a comprehensive and informative article which lays out the specifics of this important ruling and the affect this may have on employers. The article was written by Natalie K. Sanders and Daniel F.E. Smith, two attorneys from the law firm Brooks Pierce, one of the top law firms in the state of North Carolina. For those of you who are a bit confused by the interplay between the laws and regulations under FFCRA, you will find clarity when you review this article. We encourage you to review it as this court decision will impact your business operations. You can find it by clicking here.


July 27, 2020

Department of Labor and Industry has published the final text of the emergency temporary standard

The Department of Labor and Industry has published the final text of the emergency temporary standard to address COVID-19 in workplaces.

The emergency standard will be immediately effective “upon publication in a newspaper of general circulation, published in the City of Richmond, Virginia.” We believe that will come as early as Monday, July 27. The emergency standard expires within six months or upon expiration of the Governor’s State of Emergency or the enactment of a permanent standard.

While the emergency temporary standard will be effective when published, there are three important deferred effective dates in the standard. First, except for the training required on an employer’s infectious disease preparedness and response plan, all other training requirements will take effect thirty days after the standard is published in the newspaper. The requirements for implementing the Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan as well as the training requirements for the plan’s details will take effect sixty days after the standard is published in the newspaper.

With publication of the final text, Regulatory Support Services efforts to finish the COVID-19/Infectious Disease Exposure Control Plan and training program will proceed. We will keep you informed as to how and when we will distribute the training program and the plan. In the interim, please contact us with any questions.

**Reported by Regulatory Support Services**


July 20, 2020

CDC Updates Regulations on the Importation of Human Remains

Report from the National Funeral Directors Association

The CDC has updated its regulations regarding human tissues and remains being imported into the United States. These new regulations, which go into effect on August 15, 2020, will allow legitimate human remains to get back to the United States for burial, cremation or entombment, while requiring body brokers to transport their materials in accordance with any other biological material used for teaching purposes. NFDA lent its expertise in developing the final regulation.

Background
Some time ago – pre-COVID-19 – the CDC began the process of examining issues related to improper embalming of tissues/bodies being shipped into the United States.
The CDC’s role is to ensure that human remains imported into the United States do not threaten public health. In recent years, CDC has recorded an increasing number of attempts to import improperly packaged body parts, or body parts that lack the required documentation. These body parts are generally imported for purposes other than burial, entombment, or cremation, and may include science, exhibition, or education.
The CDC opened the federal regulation for comment and just released their final rule last week after the open comment period closed.

What Changed?
You can read the new regulation, Importation of Human Remains Final Rule.

  • Renamed 42 CFR §71.55 from “Dead Bodies” to “Importation of Human Remains” to clarify that the regulation covers body parts as well as whole human cadavers.
  • Added new definitions to 42 CFR §71.50 for “death certificate,” “human remains,” “importer,” and “leak-proof container.”
  • Death certificate—An official government document that certifies that a death has occurred and provides identifying information about the deceased, including (at a minimum) name, age, and sex. The document must also certify the time, place, and cause of death (if known). If the official government document is not written in English, then it must include an English language translation of the official government document. A person licensed to perform acts in legal affairs in the country where the death occurred, such as a notary, must attest to the document’s authenticity. In lieu of a death certificate, a copy of the Consular Mortuary Certificate and the Affidavit of Foreign Funeral Director and Transit Permit, shall together constitute acceptable identification of human remains.
  • Human remains means a deceased human body or any portion of a deceased human body, except:
    • Clean, dry bones or bone fragments; human hair; teeth; fingernails or toenails; or
    • A deceased human body and portions thereof that have already been fully cremated before import; or
    • Human cells, tissues or cellular or tissue-based products intended for implantation, transplantation, infusion, or transfer into a human recipient.
  • Importer means any person importing or attempting to import an item regulated under this subpart.
  • Leak-proof container means a container that is puncture-resistant and sealed in such a manner as to contain all contents and prevent leakage of fluids during handling, storage, transport, or shipping, such as:
    • A double-layered plastic, puncture-resistant body bag (i.e., two sealed body bags, one inside the other);
    • A casket with an interior lining certified by the manufacturer to be leak-proof and puncture-resistant; or
    • A sealed metal body-transfer case.
  • Required that human remains imported into the United States, or in transit within the United States and not intended for import, be fully contained within a leak-proof container that is packaged and shipped in accordance with all applicable legal requirements.
  • Clarified that importers entering the United States with human remains known to contain or reasonably suspected of containing an infectious biological agent must comply with 71.54.
  • Eliminated specific requirements under former §71.55 that human remains of a person who died of a quarantinable communicable disease be “embalmed” and placed into a “hermetically sealed casket” because these terms no longer reflect current best practices and unnecessarily increase the burden on importers.
  • Required that human remains imported for burial, entombment, or cremation be transported directly to a licensed mortuary, cemetery, or crematory. This provision ensures that human remains enter only for the intended purpose and are immediately transferred for final disposition and also ensures that the human remains are not re-exported.
  • Required that, unless embalmed, human remains imported for burial, entombment, or cremation must also be accompanied by a death certificate listing the cause of death (if known).
  • CDC understands that certain countries do not state cause of death on a death certificate due to privacy concerns. For this reason, also under §71.55(c)(1)(ii), if the death certificate is incomplete or missing, the human remains must be accompanied by:
    • An importer certification statement confirming that the human remains are not known to contain, or are not reasonably suspected of containing, an infectious biological agent; OR
    • A permit issued by the CDC under 42 CFR §71.54 if the human remains are known to contain or reasonably suspected of containing an infectious biological agent.
  • Required that, unless embalmed, human remains imported for medical examination or autopsy be consigned directly to an entity authorized to perform such functions under the laws of the applicable jurisdiction before subsequent burial, entombment, or cremation; and include a death certificate or, if the death certificate is incomplete or missing, an importer certification statement or permit under 42 CFR §71.54.
  • Required that human remains imported for any other purpose, unless embalmed, must be accompanied by an importer certification statement or permit under 42 CFR §71.54. This language addresses the other uses for human remains such as medical training or anatomical display.
  • Added clarifying language that specifies the differences in documentation needed between human remains imported for direct burial, entombment, or cremation (§71.55) and human body parts primarily imported for other purposes (71.54 Import regulations for infectious biological agents, infectious substances, and vectors).
  • Finally, under §71.55(d), imported human remains may be subject to suspension of entry under 42 CFR §71.63 if CDC determines that such an action is necessary to protect the public’s health. In the past, this provision has only been invoked to temporarily suspend importation of animal reservoirs of zoonotic disease. HHS/CDC does not anticipate this provision will be invoked frequently absent a public health emergency where such measures would be needed to protect US public health.

Helpful Links


July 15, 2020

Virginia Adopts First-in-the-Nation Workplace Safety Standards for COVID-19 Pandemic

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE · July 15, 2020
Office of the Governor
Alena.Yarmosky@governor.virginia.gov

~ In the absence of federal guidelines, newly adopted workplace safety rules will help protect Virginia workers from the spread of COVID-19 ~

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced the adoption of statewide emergency workplace safety standards in response to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. These first-in-the-nation safety rules will protect Virginia workers by mandating appropriate personal protective equipment, sanitation, social distancing, infectious disease preparedness and response plans, record keeping, training, and hazard communications in workplaces across the Commonwealth. The actions come in the absence of federal guidelines.

“Workers should not have to sacrifice their health and safety to earn a living, especially during an ongoing global pandemic,” said Governor Northam. “In the face of federal inaction, Virginia has stepped up to protect workers from COVID-19, creating the nation’s first enforceable workplace safety requirements. Keeping Virginians safe at work is not only a critical part of stopping the spread of this virus, it’s key to our economic recovery and it’s the right thing to do.”

Newly adopted standards require all employers to mandate social distancing measures and face coverings for employees in customer-facing positions and when social distancing is not possible, provide frequent access to hand washing or hand sanitizer, and regularly clean high-contact surfaces. In addition, new standards require all employees be notified within 24 hours if a coworker tests positive for the virus. Employees who are known or suspected to be positive for COVID-19 cannot return to work for 10 days or until they receive two consecutive negative tests.

The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s Safety and Health Codes Board voted today to approve an emergency temporary standard on infectious disease prevention after Governor Northam directed the creation of enforceable regulations in May. These temporary emergency standards will remain in effect for six months and can be made permanent through the process defined in state law.

“As a top state for workforce development, it should be no surprise that Virginia is also the first in the nation to establish such a robust set of emergency workplace safety regulations,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy. “Our workers are our greatest asset, and I am confident that these temporary standards will provide Virginians with the peace of mind they need to return to work and fuel the Commonwealth’s economic recovery.”

“Keeping Virginia’s economy moving forward has never been more important, and keeping our workers safe is critical to sustained economic recovery,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “COVID-19 is unfortunately going to continue impacting our everyday lives, and these regulations will provide for safer, more predictable workplaces for Virginians.”

“The Commonwealth’s new emergency workplace safety standards are a powerful tool in our toolbox for keeping Virginia workers safe and protected throughout this pandemic,” said C. Ray Davenport, Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry. “Many employers have already enacted these evidence-based practices, and we are committed to working collaboratively with those who have not to ensure they are in compliance with the new emergency temporary standard.”

The emergency temporary standards, infectious disease preparedness and response plan templates, and training guidance will be posted on the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry website at doli.virginia.gov. Workers who feel unsafe in their workplace can file a formal complaint with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration here.

Full Release


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

marty_white_vfda_president_2020-21

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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