On Hart Island, east of the Bronx, deceased without relatives or poor without the possibility of organizing a funeral, have been buried since the 19th century. A normal week 25 deceased are buried on the island, a work done by prisoners at Rikers Island Prison a few miles south.
But since the outbreak of the corona virus has taken off, the number of burials has increased on the island and is now up to around 25 per day, five days a week. The risk of infection and the increased workload have caused the city to let temporary employees work with the earthquakes.
"Due to social distancing and other security issues, prisoners from the city will not be able to assist the funerals throughout the pandemic," said Jason Kersten, spokesman for New York's prison authorities.
Digging extra ditches
The dead are wrapped in sacks and placed in boxes of pine. Their names are written in large letters on the coffins, should a body need to be excavated. They are then firmly entangled in narrow ditches excavated by excavators.
- They have dug up two extra ditches if we needed them, says Jason Kersten.
On Thursday, a barge of refrigerated cars arrived on board the island, together they carried about two dozen deceased.
7,000 dead in the state
On Thursday, New York's forensic body informed OCME that they can only keep bodies for 14 days, rather than normal 30, before being sent to temporary burial places. If the death toll in the city were to rise further and the cemeteries and ordinary cemeteries become overcrowded, the authorities have finalized plans to temporarily bury those on Hart Island as well, who will actually be buried elsewhere.
- We hope we don't get there. But at the same time, we are prepared for it, says Jason Kersten.
OCME can accommodate between 800 and 900 bodies in its stretcher housing, and can accommodate an additional 4,000 in 40 refrigerated cars. In the state of New York, more than 7,000 people have died in covid-19, 5,150 of the cases have been reported in New York City.