Dear Chaver and Chevra Member, In light of the growing COVID-19 health crisis, and in response to questions from many chevros kadisha, NASCK is suggesting the following set of protocols be followed.
These protocols are based on the best available information from the CDC at this time. NASCK has also consulted with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in NYC and and other infectious disease specialists.
The following are suggested guidelines and precautions necessary to protect Chevra Kadisha members as they perform a taharah:
1. Strictly follow the general list of universal precautions recommended by the CDC and OSHA. These include:
- Use of gloves (Nitrile or Latex are recommended)
- Disposable gowns that cover the arms to the wrist
- Additional personal protection equipment (PPE) is optional, such as booties, head covers and face masks. People with glasses may find that masks fog their glasses. In those cases, a face shield might be more suitable.
- If one is wearing open shoes, foot covers (booties) must be used.
2. Prepare any supplies you might need for the taharahin advance. This includes Monsel’s Solution in a cup, toothpicks, Q-tips, cotton towels, chucks, etc.
3. Discardall unused supplies that were present at the taharah. Do not put them back with your clean supplies.
4. Use of tishah kabin is strongly recommended instead of using a mikvah.
5. To prevent the possible escape of respiratory fluids from the mouth and nose of the nifter/es, pack their mouth and nose with Webril cotton towels for the entire taharah process. These should only be removed once the nifter/es has been placed in the aron.
6. Clean and sanitizeall surfaces, including counter tops, doorknobs, spigots, etc, before leaving the taharah room. Clorox bleach is the preferred sanitizer.
7. Anyone who has any symptoms of illness may not attend a taharah.
8. Make sure your funeral home and chevra are well-stocked with all necessary supplies.
Your funeral director may require that additional guidelines or protocols be followed. If they affect the performance of basic taharah procedure and kavod hameis, you may want to discuss it with your rabbinic advisor or posek.
Please forward this to all chevra kadisha members in your community. COVID-19 has already been declared a pandemic, and while we certainly hope there will not be a significant increase in cases, r”l, we must be prepared for this eventuality.
In the zechus of our chesed shel emes and all the tefilos and zechuyos of klal Yisroel, may we merit the rachamim of the Rofeh Ne’eman, and the geulah shleimah b’karov.
With best wishes for a Gut Shabbos, Rabbi Elchonon Zohn