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Monday, April 6, 2020

NYC May Temporarily Bury Coronavirus Victims In Parks: Lawmaker

Gregory P. Mango

Some coronavirus victims could be temporarily buried in the Hart Island potter’s field — or even public parks — if New York’s morgues become overwhelmed by the number of dead, officials said Monday.

They floated the heart-wrenching option as the city death toll climbed to 2,738 and the caseload hit 68,776 — accounting for more than half of the Empire State’s 4,758 fatalities and 130,689 cases.

“We may well be dealing with temporary burials so we can deal with each family later,” said Mayor de Blasio in a press briefing at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. “Obviously the place we have used historically is Hart Island.”


Located in the Long Island Sound off The Bronx’s southeast coast, the desolate spit of land is the nation’s largest public burial ground, with a macabre history. It has hosted a Civil War prison camp, a colony for tuberculosis patients and became the resting place for thousands of HIV/AIDS victims during the 1980s who were abandoned by families or unable to receive proper burials.

Mayor de Blasio — who has been loath to publicly discuss how New York would handle the overwhelming body count — faced the ghastly reality after City Councilman Mark Levine raised an even more dire possibility.

“Soon we’ll start ‘temporary interment.’ This likely will be done by using a NYC park for burials (yes you read that right),” the Manhattan Democrat tweeted prior to de Blasio’s remarks.

“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.”

Levine, the chair of the Council’s Health Committee, clarified in a later tweet that the plan to convert parks in makeshift cemeteries was a “contingency,” and City Hall said that it wasn’t happening — for now.

“We are NOT currently planning to use local parks as burial grounds,” tweeted mayoral rep Freddi Goldstein. “We are exploring using Hart Island for temporary burials, if the need grows.”

As New Yorkers were still dying by the hundreds, Gov. Cuomo on Monday again voiced guarded optimism that the wave may be cresting.

After a record 630 deaths were logged Saturday, the number fell to 594 Sunday, and stayed “effectively flat” with 599 on Monday.

Gregory P. Mango

“The flattening — possible flattening — of the curve is better than the increases that we have seen,” said Cuomo in his daily Albany press briefing.

Longtime Cuomo aide Dr. Jim Malatras agreed that New York may be turning a corner.

“This could suggest that we are indeed, potentially, at the apex,” said Malatras, while cautioning that this is far from over. “It looks like we are towards the earlier side of the projection.”

If the disease is truly hitting its apex, it comes just in time for New York’s overtaxed hospitals.

“This is a hospital system where we have our foot to the floor,” Cuomo said. “The engine is at redline, and you can’t go any faster. You can’t stay at redline for any period of time, because the system will blow.”

To ease the pressure, President Trump on Monday granted Cuomo’s request for the hospital ship docked along Manhattan’s West Side — the USNS Comfort — to take on COVID-19 patients.

The 1,000-bed vessel was originally reserved for noncoronavirus patients, but hadn’t seen many cases in the shut-down city.

“That is a welcome relief,” Cuomo told MSNBC of the move.

– Additional reporting by Rich Calder, Kevin Sheehan, Ebony Bowden

[ By New York Post ]

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