Coronavirus: Hart Island, where is it, are COVID-19 patients being buried there?

New York City hires contractors to bury dead as coronavirus toll continues to grow

NEW YORK — In footage that may be shocking or disturbing to some, caskets have been stacked awaiting burial on New York’s Hart Island.

But why is a New York island used for burials?

Hart Island, located in the Bronx, has been a public cemetery for New York City for more than 150 years, with more than a million people buried there, CNN reported.

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It is managed by the Department of Corrections and is normally the final resting place for anyone whose remains have gone unclaimed in the city’s morgue for one to two months, or if a family cannot afford a funeral, CBS News reported.

Right now, the city is moving only unclaimed bodies to the island, anticipating the need for morgues due to the coronavirus pandemic, CNN reported.

The medical examiner has changed the rules for unclaimed bodies, saying that instead of the 30-to 60-day limit, if a body goes unclaimed for two weeks, it will be taken to Hart Island. But if morgue officials make contact with family members within 14 days of a death, then the body will remain in the custody of officials, despite the two-week deadline.

Normally there are 25 bodies buried on the island a week, but there have been 25 burials a day after the pandemic hit New York, CNN reported. Instead of just burying people one day a week, workers are working five days a week, CBS News reported.

The burials usually are done by inmates from Rikers Island, but because of the pandemic, contractors are now doing the work.

Mayor Bill De Blasio said last week the city was going to consider burying pandemic victims on the island if morgues and temporary storage, like refrigerated trucks stationed at hospitals, fill up, CBS News reported.

The medical examiner’s office officials said they do not plan to reach morgue capacity, according to CBS News.

Workers wearing personal protective equipment bury bodies in a trench on Hart Island, Thursday, April 9, 2020, in the Bronx borough of New York. On Thursday, New York City’s medical examiner confirmed that the city has shortened the amount of time it will hold on to remains to 14 days from 30 days before they will be transferred for temporary internment at a City Cemetery. Earlier in the week, Mayor Bill DeBlasio said that officials have explored the possibility of temporary burials on Hart Island, a strip of land in Long Island Sound that has long served as the city’s potter’s field.
Workers wearing personal protective equipment bury bodies in a trench on Hart Island, Thursday, April 9, 2020, in the Bronx borough of New York. On Thursday, New York City’s medical examiner confirmed that the city has shortened the amount of time it will hold on to remains to 14 days from 30 days before they will be transferred for temporary internment at a City Cemetery. Earlier in the week, Mayor Bill DeBlasio said that officials have explored the possibility of temporary burials on Hart Island, a strip of land in Long Island Sound that has long served as the city’s potter’s field. (John Minchillo/AP)