“Hundreds” of New York City’s coronavirus victims have yet to be processed and buried, according to The Wall Street Journal, and their bodies are still sitting in giant freezer trucks parked along the waterfront near Brooklyn.
The city has yet to empty the “disaster morgue,” the WSJ reports, and around 650 individuals who died from the virus have yet to be cataloged and their remains released to next of kin. The dead, stored in massive refrigerator trucks brought into the city when several of NYC’s hospital morgues ran out of storage, largely represent low-income victims, many of whom “couldn’t afford a proper burial,” per Forbes, or who the city had a difficult time naming.
“Officials at the chief medical examiner’s office said they are having trouble tracking down relatives of about 230 deceased people,” WSJ notes. “In cases like these, a spokeswoman said, it isn’t uncommon for the deceased to have been estranged from families and for next-of-kin details to be updated or incorrect. When next of kin have been contacted, officials said most bodies haven’t been collected because of financial reasons.”
Most of the dead would have, previously, been buried in pauper graves on the city’s Hart Island, but NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio put a stop to that practice early in the pandemic, after photos of Hart Island’s mass graves went viral on social media.
Since then, it appears NYC has been dragging its feet on finding a more permanent solution.
The medical examiner’s office called the situation “traumatic,” but the temporary morgue will remain in operation until at least the end of the year.
The news of NYC’s issues with identifying and burying its coronavirus dead comes amid a public relations surge on the part of New York governor Andrew Cuomo, who claims his own handling of the pandemic was both exemplary and extraordinary. In a book, out earlier in November, Cuomo touted his coronavirus management strategy as a legendary example of leadership.
The New York governor is even slated to receive an honorary Emmy Award for his leadership amid the pandemic, according to Fox News.
New York, however, was the state hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, and New York City the epicenter of the first wave of infections. The bodies stored in Brooklyn represent a small fraction of the 24,202 dead in the city since the pandemic began in earnest in March. Additional thousands are believed to have died across New York state as a result of a Cuomo administration order directing nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to admit residents recovering from COVID-19 infections, even though many of those individuals could have been contagious upon admission.
“While that order has since been reversed,” Fox News notes, “the policy has been heavily attributed to New York’s record-breaking death toll, which includes many senior citizens living in nursing homes.”
According to The Wall Street Journal, the city does eventually plan on rehoming the hundreds of bodies in cold storage. Until then, Forbes notes, the situation is evidence of just “how unprepared the country’s systems were for handling this deadly pandemic.”
Author: Emily Zanotti