New Orleans convened a death care task force and released guidelines on handling coronavirus victims

The US Surgeon General says African Americans face a higher risk of coronavirus. CNN's Ed Lavandera spoke to a New Orleans physician to help better understand that racial disparity.

Posted: Apr 8, 2020 9:14 AM

With deaths in New Orleans now topping 180 and funeral homes overwhelmed, the city rolled out a grim set of new guidelines this week on how to prepare and handle the victims of coronavirus.

The city, one of the hardest hit in the state, has had at least 4,942 residents also test positive.

"The COVID-19 outbreak has created a tragedy within a tragedy: Compromising the way our residents prepare their deceased love ones to be laid to rest, and share in their grief the way we're accustomed to. And it won't get any easier," New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a statement.

In response to the virus, the mayor also convened a Death Care Task Force, a network of individuals including hospital officials, coroners and funeral directors, tasked in part with upholding safety guidelines as victims are laid to rest.

"We'd like to thank Mayor Cantrell for her leadership in gathering all of the key stakeholders, not just in New Orleans but across the region so that we can work collaboratively to inform our residents on the best practices during this outbreak," the task force said in a statement.

The newly released guidelines say Louisiana will follow the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations on how to handle human remains which may contain coronavirus.

"In patients who die from COVID-19 virus, virus may be transmitted during postmortem care," the city's guidelines say. "Only personnel trained in handling infected human remains and wearing appropriate PPE, should touch or move any COVID-19 infected remains. Handling of the remains should be kept to a minimum."

Showing a grim glimpse into an altering normal, the city also suggested among its guidelines that only immediate family members be in attendance during burials, while others can watch online.

"Families should understand that funeral homes cannot house deceased persons for extended periods of time awaiting the end of this pandemic. Plan to complete services rapidly within 3-to-5 days of date of passing," the guidelines say.

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