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COVID-19: Bereavement workers, including embalmers, say they don't have access to enough masks

The vice-president of Funeral Service Association of Canada says this is a particularly dangerous time for embalmers

A group that represents the funeral industry is calling for greater access to masks and other protective gear as the COVID-19 pandemic marches onward.

The vice-president of the Funeral Service Association of Canada says bereavement workers aren't given priority in accessing surgical masks, gloves or other personal protective equipment that are in short supply.

Alan Cole says this is particularly dangerous for embalmers, who worry they're at risk of catching the virus from the remains of the infected.

Thus far, there have been 12 deaths linked to COVID-19 across Canada — mostly in British Columbia — and upwards of 900 diagnoses.

Cole says his group has been reaching out to all levels of government in an effort to get their hands on more protective gear.

Health Canada declined to comment specifically on bereavement workers, but noted that the government is loosening regulations on protective equipment including masks and gowns, making some available that previously wouldn't meet the bar.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 20, 2020.

The Canadian Press