Battling the rising deaths due to COVId-19 pandemic and space crunch to hold the dead, New York has reduced the time for holding the dead bodies before they are buried as unclaimed by the authorities.
Termed as the epicentre of Coronavirus in America, New York registered third-highest single-day surge with 799 COVID-19 deaths on Thursday. Out of the over 16,000 deaths in the US, New York alone has registered more than 4,500 deaths due to the pandemic. More than 450,000 people have been infected by the virus in the US.
Burials of unclaimed bodies at Hart Island begin
Days after pictures of inmates dressed in Hazmat suits digging up trenches for mass burial at Hart Island went viral, New York city started burying the unclaimed bodies of COVID-19 victims on the potter's field in Hart Island.
According to ABC News, under a new policy framed by the medical examiner's office, the unclaimed bodies would be kept in the storage for only two weeks after which they would be buried by the authorities on the Hart Island. Previously, the unclaimed bodies were kept in the storage for 30 days.
The move comes as the rising number of deaths have forced the authorities to undertake the burial operations five days a week instead of once a week. Jason Kersten, a spokesperson for the Department of Correction told the news outlet that 24 burials are taking place each day.
Even though the trenches were dug up by the inmates for the Rikers Island jail complex, contracted labourers are doing the burials. "For social distancing and safety reasons, city-sentenced people in custody are not assisting in burials for the duration of the pandemic. Contracted labourers are performing this important work under DOC supervision," Kersten said further.
In the drone images that went viral on social media showed around 40 caskets lying near the burial site on Hart Island on Thursday.
Hart Island mass grave visible from space
The two trenches dug for the purpose of mass graves on Hart Island is visible from the space. "They added two new trenches in case we need them to help with the surge, and amid an outbreak of the COVID-19 respiratory illness caused by the virus at the city's main jail, contract laborers have been hired," Kersten had revealed to the media outlets.
In a new set of satellite images provided to Motherboard by the Colorado-based geospatial data company, Maxar Technologies, the trenches were visible from the space since April 6. In an email sent to Vice, Maxar spokesperson said: The image from April 6 [focuses] in on the area that includes new excavations and that correlate with the recent ground photos as published in the Reuters article and other news reports."
Hart Island is known as the burial ground of unclaimed bodies buried in caskets with names written on it, to be exhumed in case someone claims them post burial. However, with the recent surge of deaths due to COVID-19, the trenches were dug up to undertake mass burials.