The bodies of hundreds of people who died during the COVID-19 wave that hit New York City in the spring are still being stored in refrigerated trucks.
About 650 bodies are still in storage in a disaster morgue in Brooklyn that was erected in April, according to the Wall Street Journal. New York City’s chief medical examiner said the bodies belong to the indigent or those whose next-of-kin cannot be located.
“This has been traumatic,” Dina Maniotis, the chief medical examiner office’s executive deputy commissioner, said. ”We are working with them as gently as we can and coaxing them along to make their plans. Many of them will decide they want to go to Hart Island, which is fine.”
Traditionally, those unable to afford a burial would be buried free-of-charge at the potter’s field at Hart Island in the Bronx, which is the final resting place of over 1 million New Yorkers.
The medical examiner’s office has 22 staff members responsible for identifying bodies and notifying family members and was created to handle 20 deaths per day. However, at the peak of the pandemic in the spring, the office was inundated with 200 bodies a day. The increase in deaths led to families waiting for weeks, in some cases, to be notified of a death.
The first five days of April alone saw 1,000 deaths from the coronavirus in New York City, more than 200 per day. The Federal Emergency Management Agency sent refrigerated trucks to the city to act as temporary mortuaries in late March. In late April, dozens of decomposing bodies were discovered in unrefrigerated U-Haul trucks outside of a Brooklyn funeral home.
As of Sunday, 24,202 people had died from COVID-19 in New York City, over 256,000 people in the United States have died after contracting the coronavirus.