Funeral & Burial Guidance

Our deepest sympathies go out to all New Yorkers who have lost friends and loved ones during this difficult time. The City has been working with funeral homes, crematories, hospitals, and nursing homes throughout the five boroughs during the COVID-19 public health emergency and is doing everything possible to ensure that those we've lost are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Special Precautions

COVID-19 has dramatically changed our lives. All New Yorkers deserve to celebrate, honor, and memorialize their loved ones. Even as you make arrangements for loved ones who have passed, keep in mind the "core four" actions to prevent COVID-19 transmission:

  • Stay home if you are sick: Monitor your health and stay home if you are sick except for getting essential medical care (including COVID-19 testing) and other essential needs.
  • Physical distancing: Stay at least 6 feet away from people who are not members of your household.
  • Wear a face covering: Protect those around you. Wearing a face covering helps reduce the spread of COVID-19, especially if you are sick and don't have symptoms. For more information about face coverings, visit nyc.gov/health/coronavirus and look for COVID-19 Face Coverings: Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Practice healthy hand hygiene: Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available; clean frequently touched surfaces regularly; avoid touching your face with unwashed hands; and cover your cough or sneeze with your arm, not your hands.

Funeral Homes

Families of loved ones who have passed away from COVID-19 should call the funeral home of their choice for assistance with transfer, burial, cremation, and other services.

A list of open New York City funeral homes can be found on the New York State Department of Health website.

City Burial

OCME's responsibility as the City mortuary includes caring for all remains in our custody with dignity and respect. There may be times in this work when remains are unidentified and/or unclaimed.

As it aims to accommodate the many New Yorkers who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) will provide temporary storage of a decedent while families make arrangements for final disposition. It will continue to work with families to accommodate their needs during this difficult time.

Hart Island serves as New York City’s public cemetery and is maintained by the New York City Department of Corrections. Further information on Hart Island can be found on the DOC Hart Island website. Burial at this public cemetry is free of charge. Families can request burial in the public cemetery on Hart Island by contacting the OCME Family Outreach Unit (212-447-2030).

For more information on OCME's services, visit NYC.gov/ocme.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do if my loved one passes away at home?

Call 911. Paramedics, the NYPD, and/or OCME will respond. In some cases, OCME will authorize direct transfer of the decedent to a funeral home.

What should I do if my loved one passes away in a hospital or nursing home?

Hospitals and nursing homes are responsible for notifying a decedent's next of kin and coordinating transfer of the decedent to a funeral home.

If the next of kin cannot make arrangements directly with a funeral home, hospitals and nursing homes can transfer the deceased to OCME, which will work with families and loved ones to ensure proper burial.

Are funeral services allowed?

Yes. However, guests must practice physical distancing precautions, including staying at least 6 feet away from other people. This means you should not hug, kiss, hold or shake hands, or otherwise touch others in attendance. You should limit the sharing of objects, such as religious texts or collection plates, and the touching of shared surfaces, such as pews and podiums. It is strongly recommended you wear a face covering when in a shared indoor space, even if you can maintain 6 feet of distance from others.

Funerals should be limited to immediate family and as few people as possible. Many funeral homes have created attendance limits based on these requirements so please check in advance. Many funeral homes offer livestreaming, video conferencing, and other remote options for people who cannot attend in person.

For more information, see Reopening New York City: Frequently Asked Questions – What Religious and Funeral Services Need to Know and Reopening New York: Guidelines for Religious and Funeral Services.

Where can I find a list of funeral homes in New York City?

New York State Department of Health maintains a list of open funeral homes, which can be found on the New York State Department of Health website.

Can I touch our deceased loved one at the funeral?

There is still a lot to learn about COVID-19 and how it spreads. As such, you should not touch the body of someone who was confirmed to have COVID-19 or who may have had COVID-19 (they had cold or flu symptoms but never tested for COVID-19). Kissing, hugging, washing, dressing, and shrouding should be avoided before, during, and after the body has been prepared.

Can I still perform religious or other customs, rituals, and traditions?

Funeral home staff and/or religious leaders can provide recommendations on how to safely honor a loved one.

If washing or dressing the body are important religious or cultural practices, you should work with your community, cultural and religious leaders, and funeral home staff to reduce any potential risk of infection. This includes wearing personal protective equipment, such as gloves, gowns, and face coverings.

What if I cannot afford a loved one's burial expenses?

Low-income New York City residents may be eligible to receive financial assistance to cover funeral expenses for a deceased, low-income New York City resident. During the COVID-19 public health emergency, up to $1,700 may be available where the total expenses are not more than $3,400. Neither the applicant for assistance nor the decedent need to be a U.S. citizen. Assistance is currently available to all qualified applicants, regardless of citizenship or immigration status.

More information on burial assistance, including the application for burial allowance, is available in multiple languages on HRA's website. You can also call 311 for assistance in multiple languages.

Do I need a death certificate to hold a funeral?

Yes. You can request a New York City death certificate online or by mail. Due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, in-person ordering of death certificates is suspended until further notice. More information on ordering death certificates is available on the VitalChek website.

Do I need to sign documents or forms authorizing funeral services in person?

The requirement for original signed documents and forms authorizing or accepting funeral services has been suspended due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Instead, you can submit an e-signature by email or other means.

What precautions should funeral home staff, embalmers, and autopsy technicians take when working with a decedent who had or may have had COVID-19?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s worker safety and support guidance for funeral home workers sets forth routine prevention and control precautions, including using personal protective equipment (PPE) and following disinfection protocols.

There are currently no restrictions against or guidelines for embalming, cremating, or burying someone who had or may have had COVID-19.

What does the City do to respect religious guidelines around burial, such as cremation or burial, within a short timeframe?

OCME has a long history of working closely with faith communities and leaders to accommodate religious needs related to the release of decedents from OCME custody. OCME continues to work with funeral homes and families to meet these needs while also ensuring the health and safety of those involved.

If the decedent has no next of kin in the United States, can members of their community claim the decedent's remains?

Yes.

Where can I find out more information about burials for veterans?

For more information on burials for veterans, visit va.gov/burials-memorials.

Can funeral directors repatriate the remains of foreign nationals?

Funeral homes have received guidance from their associations and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding transporting remains of a decedent with known or suspected COVID-19 to their home country. Each country has its own protocol and documentation requirements, and funeral homes should contact specific consulates for further guidance.

More Information & Resources

  • For the latest information, visit NYC.gov/coronavirus, coronavirus.health.ny.gov, or cdc.gov/covid19. For real-time updates, text "COVID" to 692-692. Message and data rates may apply.
  • Visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) online for COVID-19 funeral assistance.
  • If you are feeling anxious, stressed or overwhelmed, connect with trained counselors at NYC Well, the City's confidential help line. Call 888-NYC-WELL (888-692-9355), text "WELL" to 65173, or chat online at NYC.gov/nycwell.
  • If you need a healthcare provider, NYC Health + Hospitals provides care to all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, insurance status or ability to pay. Call 844-NYC-4NYC (844-692-4692).
  • For more information on the New York State Department of Health's Bureau of Funeral Directing, visit health.ny.gov/professionals/funeral_director/.