NYC considers burying coronavirus victims in public parks

Clay Curtis
April 7, 2020

Levine - who is chair of New York City Council health committee - insisted that the city's medical examiner is "now dealing with the equivalent of an ongoing 9/11" due to coronavirus-related deaths in the city.

In one of his earlier posts on Twitter, Levine said that the bodies could be placed in "trenches dug for 10 caskets in a line".

"It will be done in a dignified, orderly-and temporary-manner. But it will be tough for NYers to take".

Hospital morgues, that typically can hold about 15 bodies each, are full, Levine said.

Just as the number of COVID-19 infections has overwhelmed New York City hospitals, the number of deaths has begun to overwhelm the death care infrastructure, including the city's system of morgues and now, it would seem, cemeteries. "Some hospitals have had to add a 2nd or even a 3rd trailer", he wrote on Twitter.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, speaking at his daily press briefing on the pandemic, said he wasn't aware of alternative interment plans or any need for them. "Now in the midst of this pandemic the number is 200-215". "The goal is to avoid scenes like those in Italy, where the military was forced to collect bodies from churches and even off the streets".

"Soon we'll start "temporary interment", Levine wrote in a series of tweets.

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Levine did not specify which park was under consideration if the death rate continued or intensified, but he said it would have to be a large one, "out of the way of the public", according to the New York Times.

"We are relying on freezers now to hold bodies, but that capacity is nearly entirely used up", he said, describing temporary interment as "essentially an extension of the freezer system".

A document from the city's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and obtained by ABC News outlines surge capacity plans in the event that the city runs out of refrigerated space for deceased persons. Some hospitals have needed two or three of the trailers, and most trailers are full, he added.

He clarified his tweet about 2 hours later saying that it was only a contingency plan that will not be necessary if the death rate drops.

A New York City councilman said that the city is preparing for the contingency of using city parks to bury bodies of coronavirus victims.

In recent days, the virus has tripled the number of people dying in the city compared with an average day. Additional details about what particular city park or parks will be used for COVID-19 burials were not disclosed but de Blasio said that Hart Island in the Bronx was used in the past. "It's going to be tough, but we have capacity". New York, the centre of the USA outbreak, also reported a dip in the number of daily deaths, though authorities warned it's too early to tell whether it's just a blip or the start of a trend.

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