Health Care

NYC Health Committee Chairman Braces Residents for ‘Temporary Burials’ in City Parks Due to Limited Morgue Space

Samaritan’s Purse staff sets up an emergency field hospital in Central park during the outbreak of the coronavirus in New York City, March 31, 2020. (Jeenah Moon/Reuters)

New York City councilman Mark D. Levine, chairman of the city council’s health committee, on Monday braced residents for the prospect of “temporary burials” of coronavirus victims due to the city’s limited morgue capacity.

The city’s morgues are “now dealing w/ the equivalent of an ongoing 9/11….Every part of this system is now backed up,” Levine wrote on Twitter.

“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,” Levine went on. “It will be done in a dignified, orderly–and temporary–manner. But it will be tough for NYers to take.”

The councilman explained, “The goal is to avoid scenes like those in Italy, where the military was forced to collect bodies from churches and even off the streets.” In Bergamo, Italy, residents have filmed military convoys removing bodies from the town. The country saw one of the worst outbreaks of coronavirus in the world, with almost 129,000 cases and 15,887 deaths as of Monday.

“There will be delays [in burial] because of the sheer magnitude of this crisis,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters when asked about temporary burials. “We will have the capacity to do temporary burials, that is all I’m going to say.” De Blasio said that Hart’s Island in the Bronx had been used for such purposes in the past, but it was still unclear which parks in the city would be used.

However, later on Monday morning, Levine clarified that plans for “temporary burials” would not be used if the city’s coronavirus death rate slows.

This “is a contingency NYC is preparing for BUT if the death rate drops enough it will not be necessary,” Levine wrote on Twitter.

In addition, Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters that he had not been informed of impending space issues in city morgues.

“I have not heard that this is an issue,” Cuomo said at a press conference.

New York City has reported 67,551 cases of coronavirus with 3,048 deaths since the outbreak began. Due to limitations on space in morgues in the city, medical agencies have moved refrigerated trucks to hospitals to house the bodies of victims. The Defense Department on Friday announced it would help city agencies coordinate mortuary processes.

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.


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