New York City has turned to mass burial as the number of coronavirus deaths surpassed 10,000 as of Monday.

Overwhelmed mortuaries have moved bodies that were not claimed within a month to New York’s Hart Island, a public cemetery off the coast of the Bronx for bodies never claimed by next of kin or are too poor to afford a private burial, in order to make room for coronavirus victims.

Politico reports that the city is currently burying 125 people a week there, up from the usual 25 per week.

“There are people who pass away, and there is no family member, no loved one, no friend, no one who we can find … who has a connection to that person and is going to take responsibility for their burial,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters Friday.

“This has been the truth for generations,” he said. “But more people are passing away, obviously, in large measure because of COVID.”

The city medical examiner the amount of time it will hold unclaimed remains before sending them to Hart Island to 14 days. If a family member comes forward during that two-week window, the body will be held indefinitely, de Blasio said Friday.

“If no one has claimed them, no one has communicated, no one can be found in any way, shape or form, they will be buried,” de Blasio said. “If the family members and loved ones communicate, even if they can’t come now, that will be handled differently.”

If family members later come forward, bodies can be exhumed from the island.

While the task of burying bodies on Hart Island is typically assigned to prisoners at Rikers who are paid $1 an hour for their work, the city has currently hired contract laborers to work during the pandemic.

 

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