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New York City Plans Temporary Burials For The Dead

In New York City, as the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic continues increasing, officials say the city may have to temporarily bury some of the dead in a public park. The death toll in New York City typically averaged 20 to 25 people a day before the outbreak; now it's around 200.

New York City Councilman Mark Levine says that if the death toll doesn't level off soon, the city will likely start doing "temporary interment." In a string of tweets, he detailed contingency plans for handling the dead. Trenches, he says, would be dug in a city park for caskets that would be placed 10 in a line.

In an interview, Levine said, "It would be done in a way that allowed these bodies to then be disinterred and given a proper burial at such time as the crisis is over and our normal cemetery system and funeral home system are running again."


Levine says said 80 refrigerated trailers big enough to hold 100 bodies each have been deployed to hospitals in the city. Some hospitals now have added a second and even third trailer, holding the remains of people who died from Covid-19 or other causes. With so many dead, funeral homes and cemeteries in the region are unable to keep up.

"People who lose someone to this virus, they're calling half a dozen funeral homes, and there's just no way now to get served through those normal channels," he says. "You really can't get a burial in a cemetery at all now. Their resources are stretched and they have no capacity to handle the number of people who need burials."

Asked about the city's plans for dealing with the growing number of bodies, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed officials were looking at contingency plans, but wouldn't go into details.

"We will have the capacity we need," he said. "We may be dealing with temporary burials so we can then deal with each family later. But again, I'm not going to detail it."

De Blasio said the Defense Department had sent personnel and equipment to help, but that "it's going to be very tough."


Levine, who is the chairman of the New York City Council Health Committee, conceded it's a tough topic, but one he felt needed to be discussed in public. "We need more help. We need more resources. We need more staffing for our city's mortuary system, just like we need more doctors and nurses," he said.

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