Special Statement on COVID 19
We are committed to continuing to serve throughout the pandemic.
Certain policies, procedures and systems changes are in place during the stay-at-home/state of emergency declarations. Please bear with us during the process as we adjust. #InThisTogether.
During this time of confusion and anxiety, please, check on your family, friends, and neighbors. Of course, keep your social distance, but do call your loved ones and the elderly to see how they’re doing. It is very possible that someone who is ill for any reason may not have the access they need to emergency services.
Don’t panic; be kind and be good to one another.
Families: We are still here for you, as we always have been. Please be patient if you do not directly reach the office on your first attempt.
- If You Receive Voicemail During Normal Hours: please leave a message indicating your need, and include a return phone number. We will return your call. Please do not call repeatedly, hang up, or attempt to call 911 for a non-urgent matter.
- Report Requests: requests may be delayed. If you have a truly urgent need, please contact the office.
- Requests from insurance companies and law enforcement agencies will be processed as soon as possible.
- Personal Effects/Property: pickup in person at our office is not an option at this time. If you have an urgent need, please contact the office and we will make alternate arrangements.
Funeral Directors: As well as the office, we work in the field performing investigations throughout the day. Please allow extra time for requests for cremation authorizations. For death certificates, remember, it is always preferable for the PCP, attending physician or hospitalist to certify cause and manner. Please consider temporary certificates when a doctor is out of town, or operating with reduced hours or staff.
- Cremation authorizations are still being processed, even when during periods where we are working remotely. We understand many of your staff are working remotely, too. We have several options for you:
- Cremation requests must include a certified death certificate, working copy from EDRS, or a medical certification worksheet with the cause/manner and doctor’s name and license number legible. Requests must include a social security number, place of disposition, and the doctor's signature and address.
- Continue to fax your requests to 724-228-6745. Faxes are automatically broadcast out to staff by email, so your fax will be received and processed no matter where we are. There is generally no need to refax an authorization several times.
- Email your authorization to firstname.lastname@example.org, and include the words Cremation Authorization in the subject line.
- We can return your authorization by fax or email. Please indicate which you would like to receive, and the return fax number or email you’d like the authorization sent to. We realize many of your staff are out of the office or working from different offices and so may not have access to fax machines or their usual email accounts.
- Please allow for extra time for review (we do review each one with the physician, and many offices are operating at reduced capacity.)
- Guidelines on responding to COVID-19 related deaths from NFDA can be found here. Our office is using the PPE recommended by CDC on all COVID-19 presumptive positive home deaths. Here are the recommendations and instructions for donning and doffing this PPE.
- If you need to reach our staff, please call 724-228-6785 and leave a message. We ask for your patience; we will return your call as soon as possible. Again, please do not call 911 for a non-emergency.
- If you have an urgent situation regarding a COVI-19 death, the Coroner and Chief Deputy Coroner are available 24/7--follow the normal procedure to have us paged.
Reporting COVID-Related Deaths
Under the County Code, recently codified as Act 154 of 2018, COVID-related deaths are reportable to the coroner. Please leave the same information as listed for hospice agencies below; but remember to state you are reporting a COVID death. If you are unsure about what to do, you may contact Washington County 911 at 724-229-4600 to speak to a deputy coroner after hours.
Hospice Agencies: please continue to report deaths at 724-228-6785. Leave a voice message with the following; remembering to spell your name and the decedent’s name:
- Your name, agency, and agency’s contact number
- Decedent’s name
- Decedent’s age and race
- Date and time pronounced
- Name/contact information for next of kin
- Name of physician signing certificate
- Admitting diagnosis
- Name of funeral home
- If the death is in any was suspicious or traumatic, you must speak with a deputy before releasing the body.
- Call 724-228-6785 Monday-Friday between 9:00AM-4:30PM
- Call Washington County 911 at 724-229-4600 after office hours and ask to speak with a deputy coroner.
About the Department
The Coroner, also known as a medicolegal death investigator, is a professional who responds to the most horrific death scenes imaginable. Those who enter this forensic profession must possess strength in body, character and ethics in order to perform this very important service to the public.
Their duties include:
- Entering crime and accident scenes dealing with death many times on a daily basis
- Encountering all aspects of diseases, body fluids, drugs and weapons that may have potential harmful effects on them, simply from their presence
- Entering homes ranging from dirty, pack-rat conditions, to executive mansions.
- Dealing with emotionally charged conditions involving the death of children, parents, wives and husbands, and always maintain a professional attitude regardless of the circumstances
- Collecting and handling property involving expensive jewelry, cash, and other valuables that they must protect and return to the decedent's next of kin
- Being capable of examining decomposed and mangled bodies as well as reading and interpreting important medical records to help determine the causes and manner of death
- Being capable of coordinating their investigative efforts with law enforcement agencies, medical staff, fire department and emergency services personnel, and at the same time, protect the interest of the deceased person, whom they represent in death
History and the appellate courts in Pennsylvania have determined the Coroner is a member of the law enforcement team, possessing criminal investigation powers.
Coroners present a specialized ingredient to the crime scene investigation. Through training and experience, combined with fortitude in character and mental well-being, the Coroner contributes to the investigative process in a unique manner. They must possess a highly motivated desire to help families of decedents at a time when the need for the most gentle yet professional demeanor, is demanded of them. They must interact with highly trained medical doctors, a multitude of law enforcement personnel, sometimes angry and confused family members and the bureaucracy of public service to achieve one of the most difficult and important aspects of the criminal justice system.
Note to Citizens
We at the Washington County Coroner's Office extend our deepest sympathy to you during this difficult time. We hope the information contained in this website will assist you by providing answers to commonly asked questions.