Michigan health officials are trying to speed up the process of arranging for the bodies of those who died during the COVID-19 crisis.
On Monday, May 4, Robert Gordon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, signed an emergency order aimed at reducing the time hospitals and funeral directors have to contact the families of the deceased , and the time families have to make arrangements for the deceased.
The order comes as the state has reported 43,754 confirmed cases and 4,049 deaths associated with the infectious virus since mid-March. Michigan ranks fourth in the country in COVID-19 deaths despite having the 10th largest population.
“The increase in the number of deaths has placed a significant burden on hospitals and funeral homes in our state,” said Gordon. “We need to ease this burden and ensure the safe, proper and respectful handling of Michiganders remains. “
Before Monday’s order, funeral directors didn’t really have a specified time frame for how long they had to contact those who have authority over what is happening with the body of a deceased person. Once they made contact with an individual’s family, the family normally had 48 hours to make arrangements.
Under the new emergency decree, hospitals and funeral directors have 24 hours to attempt to contact those with authority over the disposal of a body. If none of these people can be located within that time, the duty falls to a county medical examiner.
If a person with authority over the disposal of a body is identified, they have 48 hours from the time of death – not from the time they were notified – to make a decision and make the necessary arrangements for the disposal. Failure to act within 48 hours loses the right to make a decision.
Statewide, funeral homes and hospital morgues are at full capacity, according to an MDHHS spokesperson. In places like Oakland and Kent counties, large refrigerated trucks have been acquired for additional storage capacity if needed.
Monday’s emergency order also relaxes some licensing provisions for funeral directors and allows funeral directors and medical examiners to authorize embalming. It also allows for the storage of bodies in temporary storage facilities provided by the Michigan Mortuary Response Team or at another site provided by the license holder.
Due to the current outbreak as determined by Gordon, the MDHHS director has the ability to sign an emergency order to “prohibit the gathering of people for any purpose and may establish procedures to be followed during the epidemic to ensure the continuation of essential public health services and the enforcement of health laws, ”according to state law.
CORONAVIRUS PREVENTION TIPS
In addition to washing your hands regularly and not touching your face, officials recommend practicing social distancing, assuming anyone can carry the virus. Health officials say you should stay at least 6 feet from others and work from home, if possible. Take hand sanitizer with you, and uses disinfectant wipes Where disinfectant spray cleaners on frequently touched surfaces in your home (doorknobs, faucets, counters) and when you go to places like stores.
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