Workers in full
Hazmat suits bury rows of coffins in mass grave
By Emily Crane
April 10, 2020 "Information
- Workers wearing hazmat
suits have been spotted burying caskets in a mass grave
on New York's Hart Island - as the number of burials
quadruples amid the coronavirus pandemic and the city's
death roll rises to more than 4,200.
A dozen contracted
laborers were seen digging and burying the caskets -
some of which had names carved on them - on Thursday.
The city has used Hart
Island to bury New Yorkers with no known next of kin or
whose family are unable to arrange a funeral since the
Typically, about 25 bodies
are buried there once a week by low-paid Rikers Island
jail inmates. That number began increasing last month as
the new coronavirus spread rapidly and New York became
the epicenter of the pandemic.
They are now burying about
two dozen bodies a day, five days a week, DailyMail.com
Currently, 4,260 people
have died from coronavirus in the city and more than
80,000 have been infected.
Until now, officials have
remained tight-lipped on whether coronavirus victims
were being buried on Hart
On Thursday, officials
said they had no choice but to bury COVID-19 patients at
the city's cemetery as it deals with the mounting
coronavirus death toll and dwindling morgue space.
Workers wearing hazmat suits
and other protective gear were spotted burying
caskets in a mass grave on New York's Hart Island on
Thursday amid speculation coronavirus victims are
now being buried there
About a dozen workers were
seen digging and burying the caskets - some of which
had names carved into them - on Thursday as at least
one refrigerated truck was brought onto the island
Those dressed in hazmat
suits had to use a ladder to get down into the mass
grave on Thursday as the new caskets were buried.
They were watched by a corrections officer (far
Under a new policy,
the medical examiner's office will keep bodies in
storage for just 14 days before they're buried in
the city's potter's field on Hart Island.
City officials haven't
explained whether the increase in burials at Hart
Island is due to pressure on mortuaries to dispose
of bodies more quickly.
Prisoners from Rikers
Island are usually brought in to dig graves on Hart
Island but the Department of Corrections has since
hired contracted laborers to carry out the work due
to the outbreak.
'For social distancing
and safety reasons, city-sentenced people in custody
are not assisting in burials for the duration of the
pandemic,' DOC Press Secretary Jason Kersten told
DailyMail.com. 'Contracted laborers are performing
this important work under DOC supervision.
'Burial operations at
the city cemetery remain uninterrupted and they
continue to be supervised by DOC, which has been
performing this solemn duty on Hart Island for over
150 years and will continue to do so until the
jurisdiction of Hart Island moves to Parks in
For burial on the
island, the dead are wrapped in body bags and placed
inside pine caskets. The deceased's name is scrawled
in large letters on each casket, which helps if any
body needs to be exhumed later. The caskets are
buried in long narrow trenches excavated by digging