New York hires laborers to bury coronavirus victims on Hart Island potter's field: report

New York City has hired laborers to bury coronavirus victims in its Hart Island potter’s field, as the death rate in the area continues to break records each of the last three days, Reuters reported Thursday. 

The city has used the island to bury bodies of people who do not have known next of kin or whose families cannot arrange a funeral since the 19th century. But the usual 25 bodies a day has been increasing during the pandemic, requiring the city to contract more workers. 

Jason Kersten, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections, told Reuters about two dozen bodies are buried per day, five days a week. The bodies are wrapped in body bags and placed in pine caskets with the individual’s name written on it. 

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Two new trenches were added “in case we need them” during the crisis, he said. 

Usually, low-paid jail inmates work on the island off of the Bronx, but the workers will replace them for safety reasons according to the news source.

Reuters reported seeing a barge come to the island with a refrigerated truck holding about 24 bodies.

The Corrections Department referred Reuters’s questions about the causes of death to New York City’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME).

OCME spokeswoman Aja Worthy-Davis said it was probable some of the recent burials included people killed by the virus.

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The island could be used for temporary internments if the city’s morgues overflow, but both officials told Reuters capacity has not been reached. OCME facilities can hold 800 to 900 bodies in its buildings and can carry 4,000 in 40 refrigerated trucks. 

“We’re all hoping it’s not coming to this,” Kersten told Reuters. “At the same time, we’re prepared if it does.”

New York City has been hit hard by the coronavirus, with 87,725 positive cases, 21,571 hospitalizations and 4,778 deaths as of Thursday evening, according to the city’s health department