New York City is digging mass graves for unclaimed bodies from COVID-19.
The city has experienced an overwhelming amount of COVID-19 infections and deaths, making it a global epicenter of the disease.
With more than 170,000 infections, NYC has more COVID-19 cases than any nation on earth.
More people in the city have died from the virus than from 9/11.
City officials have built temporary morgues and hired more mortuary technicians and funeral directors to meet the increase in demand.
Now the city is turning to a different location to bury unclaimed bodies, Hart Island.
This island in Long Island Sound near the Bronx has been used as a potter’s field – a place to bury the poor since the mid-19th century.
According to the Hart Island History Project, burials of unclaimed and unidentified people started in 1869 and mass burials started in 1875.
Usually, the bodies are buried by inmates from Rikers Island, but with COVID-19, the city has hired contract laborers instead.
Before COVID-19, about 25 bodies a week were buried on Hart Island. Now the city is burying about 24 bodies a day, five days a week.
According to Reuters, the bodies are wrapped in body bags, placed inside pine caskets and the person’s name is written on top, in case the body has to be exhumed later.
Other unclaimed bodies buried on Hart Island include the homeless and AIDS victims.
The Hart Island Project says most of the buried have been identified.