Health Conditions

New York City prepares to use parks as temporary burial sites

The death toll from the COVID-19 coronavirus is rising so fast in New York City that officials expect to use city parks as “temporary interment” facilities, according to the chairman of the city’s Council Committee on Health.

Mark D. Levine, a councilmember who represents the 7th District in Northern Manhattan, made the shocking announcement on Twitter, saying, “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. It will be done in a dignified, orderly—and temporary—manner. But it will be tough for NYers to take.”

New York morgues, he says, are already full. And while FEMA has sent 85 refrigerated trucks to NYC to serve as temporary morgues, those too are filling up fast.

“Nothing matters more in this crisis than saving the living,” said Levine. “But we need to face the gruesome reality that we need more resources to manage our dead as well. Or the pain of this crisis will be compounded almost beyond comprehension.”

Levine did not name any specific parks that would be used for burials. The city has roughly 28,000 acres of parkland. The largest is Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx, followed by Greenbelt on Staten Island. (Central Park, the city’s best known park, is the fifth largest park in the New York area.)

Families, said Levine, are unable to find funeral homes that can handle their deceased loved ones and cemeteries are turning down requests for burials. Further complicating things, he said, was the number of people dying at home on a daily basis.

“It’s not just deaths in hospitals which are up,” he said. “On an average day before this crisis there were 20-25 deaths at home in NYC. Now in the midst of this pandemic the number is 200-215. *Every day*.”

New York has been a hot zone for the deadly virus. The state has been under a stay-at-home order since March 20, but cases continue to increase. And on Friday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called for a national enlistment program for doctors and nurses to handle an expected surge in coronavirus cases.

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