New video appears to show workers at New York City’s Hart Island burying a large number of what appear to be plywood caskets in large, shallow graves.
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The action appears to be a carryout of New York’s plan to temporarily intern COVID-19 victims until families can properly recover the remains of their loved ones after the outbreak is contained.
Hart Island is the normal location where the city buries bodies with no known next of kin, John/Jane Does, and deceased whose family were unable to arrange proper funeral arrangements. In a normal week, workers bury about 25 bodies on the island.
In the last week or two, that number has increased to 24 bodies five days a week as the number of dead from New York’s COVID outbreak continue to mount. To date, over 4,000 people have died in New York City alone, most in the last several days.
According to a report by Reuters:
That number began increasing in March as the new coronavirus spread rapidly, making New York the epicenter of the pandemic. They are now burying about two dozen bodies a day, five days a week, said Jason Kersten, a spokesman for the Department of Correction, which oversees the burials.
For burial on the island, the dead are wrapped in body bags and placed inside pine caskets. The deceased’s name is scrawled in large letters on each casket, which helps should any body need to be disinterred later, and they are buried in long narrow trenches excavated by digging machines.
“They added two new trenches in case we need them,” Kersten said. To help with the surge, and amid an outbreak of the COVID-19 respiratory illness caused by the virus at the city’s main jail, contract laborers have been hired, he said.
“For social distancing and safety reasons, city-sentenced people in custody are not assisting in burials for the duration of the pandemic,” Kersten said.
Normally, city prisoners carry out the burials in their prison uniforms, but given the seriousness of New York’s outbreak, it now appears the city is using hired workers in full personal protection equipment to carry out the work.
Earlier this week, it was reported that New York City officials were looking into the possibility of using public parks for temporary burials. That news sparked a firestorm online, and it appears officials have backed off of that plan in favor of the Hart Island location.
As of today, over 390,000 infections have been reported in the United States along with over 12,000 deaths being attributed to the virus. Worldwide there are over 1.3 million cases and over 75,000 deaths reported. New York State, and specifically New York City and the surrounding areas remain the hardest hit areas in the United States.