Guidance for funeral homes and families

Information about safe funeral preparations and getting samples for COVID-19 testing.

Anyone who has died in San Francisco must be tested for COVID-19 with a nasal swab. The test is free. We will ask for email addresses or phone numbers of loved ones and caregivers. If the test is positive, we will contact them. See more information about this testing requirement.

Decedents with COVID-19 can be buried or cremated locally through a licensed state provider. See the consumer guide from the CA Cemetery and Funeral Bureau to verify a license.

The Medical Examiner is able to issue a letter of non-contagion for air or international transportation of the remains of individuals, if they tested negative for COVID-19. You can ask your funeral home or email medical.examiner@sfgov.org to get a letter of non-contagion.

Funerals can continue if they follow rules for gatherings. All attendees must stay 6 feet apart from each other and wear face coverings.

Follow standard precautions

Follow routine infection prevention and control precautions when handling a decedent who died of COVID-19. 

See the CDC’s standard precautions for all patient care,

Additional precautions for COVID-19

Wear disposable nitrile gloves when handling body bags.

When transporting a body after bagging, disinfect the outside of the bag with a product approved by the EPA to use against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, including concentrations, application method, and contact time.

Use personal protective equipment (PPE) if you expect fluids to splash.

After you remove PPE, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Getting specimens for COVID-19 testing

You must make sure that anyone who died has been tested for COVID-19. Read the Order of the Health Officer No. C19-14 or DPH guidance about this testing requirement.

See CDC recommendations.

CDC recommendations for collecting specimens can be followed by:

  • Medical examiners
  • Coroners
  • Pathologists
  • Other workers involved in providing postmortem care
  • Local and state health departments
Last updated April 14, 2021