NYC creates burial plans for COVID-19 deaths, if morgues are too crowded

Hart Island, the nation’s largest public burial ground, suggested as a temporary resting place for coronavirus victims

If COVID-19 deaths continue to rise in New York City, some deceased could be temporarily buried in the Hart Island potter’s field.

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If COVID-19 deaths continue to escalate in New York, some deceased could be temporarily buried in the Hart Island potter’s field, officials say.

The Hart Island idea was mentioned as a possibility on Monday as deaths soared to 2,738 with 68,776 total cases.

READ MORE: Black residents in Chicago make up 70 percent of COVID-19 deaths

“We may well be dealing with temporary burials so we can deal with each family later,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a press conference at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, according to The New York Post. “Obviously the place we have used historically is Hart Island.”

Hart Island, the country’s largest public burial ground, is located on the Long Island Sound off The Bronx’s southeast coast. It was the final resting place for Civil War prisoners, tuberculosis patients and thousands of people who died destitute of HIV/AIDS with no families coming to claim their bodies.

Mayor de Blasio offered Hart Island as a Plan B if the need arises. With the fear of morgues being inundated with victims from the coronavirus pandemic, City Councilman Mark Levine, who also chairs the Council’s Health Committee, erroneously suggested to the public that New York parks could also become an alternative.

“Soon we’ll start “temporary interment.” This likely will be done by using a NYC park for burials (yes you read that right). Trenches will be 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,” Levine tweeted.

Levine later clarified his statement, calling the use of parks as temporary burial grounds a “contingency” plan that could be avoided if the numbers start dropping.

The press representative for Mayor de Blasio, however, said public parks are not a consideration.

“We are NOT currently planning to use local parks as burial grounds,” tweeted mayoral rep Freddi Goldstein. “We are exploring using Hart Island for temporary burials, if the need grows.”

After Goldstein released her statement, Levin retracted his first statement saying that he “received unequivocal assurance that there will be *no* burials in NYC Parks.”

Labor advocate Kim Kelly posed another concern, this time about Riker’s prisoners burying the dead under this new plan. She wondered if they were being used to dispose of people who have died from COVID-19, would they be compensated for their labor. The mayor’s press secretary cleared this up too on the social media platform.

READ MORE: New York governor orders statewide lockdown to ward against virus

While these plans are being discussed, the governor believes that there may be a glimpse of promise on the horizon.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he was optimistic that the number of coronavirus cases in New York has begun cresting. From the state’s 639 deaths on Saturday to 594 on Sunday and then 599 on Monday, Cuomo said it appears the numbers are “flattening.”

“The flattening — possible flattening — of the curve is better than the increases that we have seen,” Cuomo said, according to The New York Post.