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An agency drone has captured images of New York's Hart Island, where a group of workers are seen digging trenches for dozens of coffins. The city has used Hart Island since the 19th century to bury New Yorkers without known relatives or whose family cannot organize a funeral.
Typically, about 25 deceased are buried each week by low-income prisoners working on the island, which is located off the east coast of the city's Bronx district and is only accessible by boat.
That number began to increase 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 coffins. The deceased's name is written in large letters on each coffin, which helps if any body needs to be unearthed later, and they are buried in long, narrow trenches dug by digging machines.
"They added two new trenches, in case we need them," Kersten said. To help with the job increase, and amid an outbreak of the disease at the city's main jail, more workers have been hired, he added. "For social distancing and security reasons, convicted and in custody people are not attending funerals during the pandemic," said Kersten.
On Thursday morning a barge was seen arriving on the island with a refrigerated truck on board containing approximately two dozen bodies . The city's Office of the Medical Examiner (OCME) said it would take time to collect individual causes of death from the office's records, but that some of the recent burials were likely to include those who were victims of the coronavirus.
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