Veteran Cemeteries to Limit Funeral Size During Pandemic

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Military funeral honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
The 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) Caisson Platoon; “The President’s Own” Marine Band; and Marines from the Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C. conduct military funeral honors with funeral escort Jan. 30, 2020. (U.S. Marine Corps/ Elizabeth Fraser)

This story was updated March 20.

Veterans cemeteries are open to the public during the novel coronavirus outbreak, but are adhering to official guidance on how to avoid spreading COVID-19. In the latest development, the Department of Veterans Affairs' National Cemetery Administration (NCA) has limited funeral parties to no more than 10 people.

The NCA began discouraging staff from handshakes and "any unnecessary physical contact" last week. On Tuesday, it announced that groups of more than 10 people should be avoided.

"In light of concerns regarding the community spread of COVID-19, we are strongly urging that all committal services adhere to the CDC guidelines to avoid groups of more than 10 people," the NCA guidance to funeral directors states. "We suggest you contact cemeteries directly to gain an understanding of the completeness of the committal service in this very fluid situation."

Beginning Monday and until further notice, the NCA will stop conducting committal services and the rendering of military funeral honors by military personnel or volunteer organizations. No more than 10 immediate family members will be allowed to watch the interment "from a safe distance" without a service, a new policy released Thursday states.

Related: A Soldier Compared Coronavirus Quarantine to Prison. Pentagon Vows to 'Do Better'

Updates to the COVID-19 response will be posted on the NCA's Facebook and Twitter accounts.

-- Dorothy Mills-Gregg can be reached at dorothy.mills-gregg@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @DMillsGregg.

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