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Stark aerial images show new graves being dug on Hart Island as New York coronavirus deaths surge
N'dea Yancey-Bragg, USA TODAY
Published 11:35 a.m. ET April 10, 2020 | Updated 11:47 a.m. ET April 10, 2020
(WARNING: DISTURBING CONTENT) Drone video shows workers burying bodies in a NYC island trench amid the coronavirus pandemic. Burials at the city cemetery on Hart Island have increased from 25 a week to about 24 a day. (April 9)
As New York state continues to report record-breaking numbers of coronavirus deaths, New York City burials are increasing on an island off the Bronx.
Normally, about 25 bodies a week are buried in the city's public cemetery on Hart Island; most of them are either unclaimed or are people whose families can't afford a funeral.
Now, around 24 burials occur each day, five days a week, said Department of Correction spokesman Jason Kersten.
New York City has also shortened the amount of time it will hold unclaimed bodies before they are buried in the city’s potter’s field on the island, a one-mile, limited-access strip where more than a million mostly indigent New Yorkers are buried.
Under the new policy, the medical examiner’s office will keep bodies in storage for just 14 days. City officials haven’t explained if the increase in burials is due to pressure on mortuaries to dispose of bodies more quickly.
Aerial images taken Thursday by the Associated Press show workers wearing protective gear digging graves on the island. About 40 caskets were lined up for burial on the island on Thursday, and two fresh trenches have been dug in recent days. Take a look.
Passaic firefighter Israel Tolentino, 33 who passed away from complications of COVID-19, was laid to rest at East RidgeLawn Cemetery on Thursday, April 2, 2020 in Passaic, N.J. AMY NEWMAN, NORTHJERSEY.COM/ USA TODAY NETWOORK
A funeral at East Ridgelawn Cemetery in Clifton, NJ on March 30, 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. The funeral was for a man, Ludovino Alcantara of Passaic who succumbed to the COVID-19 virus. Cemetery workers take the place of pall bearers and family members are limited in numbers and kept at a distance. Angelica Lopez and her boyfriend Elvis Alcantara of Passaic, son of the deceased, take iPhone photos of the casket that started to be lowered into the grave. Chris Pedota, NorthJersey.com via USA Today Network
Funeral workers supervise the grave site ceremony that limits attendance to immediate family members during a funeral at East Ridgelawn Cemetery in Clifton, NJ on March 30, 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Chris Pedota, NorthJersey.com via USA Today Network
Police line up following social distancing guidelines, outside of the Vineyard Church, Springdale, Ohio prior to Springdale Police Officer, Kaia Grant's funeral service on March 30, 2020. Grant was killed in the line of duty March 21, 2020 following a police chase and crash. Amanda Rossmann, Amanda Rossmann/The Enquirer-USA
The outbreak has brought dizzying, near-daily changes to funerals over the past three weeks, said Mark Flower, the manager of the Flower Funeral Home in Yonkers, NY.
"We went from having open funerals to having a (maximum) of 50 or 50% of the chapel size, to now where itÕs private only for family members, and, only up to 10 people," he said. Mark Vergari, The Journal News via USA TODAY NETWORK
Father Sandy McDonald presides over the funeral of Ralph Ray, 73, at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Columbia, SC on Mar 27, 2020 in Columbia, S.C,. In the front row, L-R, are Ray's widow Cathy Ray; son Steve Ray; and Steve's wife Ness Ray. Due to Coronavirus social distancing measures, no more than ten people were allowed to attend the funeral. Three family members and two friends attended. His daughter, siblings, and grandchildren were unable to attend. Jeff Blake, USA TODAY NETWORK
Friends who couldn't be inside for the funeral of Ralph Ray, 73, wave to family members leaving the service while keeping their distance following the funeral at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Columbia, SC on March 27, 2020.. Due to Coronavirus social distancing measures, no more than ten people were allowed to attend the funeral. Three family members and two friends attended. His daughter, siblings, and grandchildren were unable to attend. Jeff Blake, USA TODAY NETWORK
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers restricted gatherings to less than 10 people on March 17, 2020. This March 18, 2020, photo shows a funeral that was affected by the rule put in place due to the coronavirus outbreak in Milwaukee. The coronavirus has changed everything about our lives including the way we grieve for the dead. Carrie Antlfinger, AP
Terri McDermott speaks during the funeral of her husband Norbert Coyne McDermott III, better known as "Bert," amid the COVID-19 pandemic on March 21, 2020, at Mt. Royal Cemetery in Shaler, Pa. The service was live streamed and guests were asked to social distance "to preserve the lives of our cherished elders," according to McDermott's obituary. Steph Chambers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP
Guest mourn while keeping a six-foot social distance during the funeral of Norbert Coyne McDermott III, better known as "Bert," amid the COVID-19 pandemic on Saturday, March 21, 2020, at Mt. Royal Cemetery in Shaler, Pa. The service was live-streamed and guests were asked to social distance "to preserve the lives of our cherished elders," according to McDermott's obituary. (Steph Chambers/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP) ORG XMIT: PAPIT104 Steph Chambers, AP
Mar 24, 2020; Poughkeepsie, NY, USA; Michelle Poczobut plays taps during the funeral of Stuart Vidal at Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery on March 24, 2020. Due to coronavirus social distancing the participants keep appropriate distance from each other. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Oehler/Poughkeepsie Journal via USA TODAY NETWORK ORIG FILE ID: 20200327_jcd_usa_103.JPG Patrick Oehler, Poughkeepsie Journal-USA TODAY N
March 26, 2020; Jeromesville, OH, USA; Funeral procession for Bill Cameron, 78 who died on March 19, from Fickes Funeral Home, in Jeromesville, OH, south on High Street to the Jeromesville Cemetery Thursday, March 26, 2020. Local farmers showed up with their tractors for the funeral procession after the family private services due to the coronavirus outbreak and there were over 50 tractors in the funeral procession. Mandatory Credit: Tom E. Puskar/Ashland Times-Gazette via USA TODAY NETWORK ORIG FILE ID: 20200327_ajw_usa_058.jpg Tom E. Puskar, Ashland Times-Gazette-USA TODAY