Cemeteries struggling to cope with number of Covid-19 victims in New York City

At epidemic's peak, a New Yorker was dying every two minutes.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Cemetery (illustrative)
Cemetery (illustrative)

Funerals – both burials and cremations – are proceeding virtually non-stop at some of New York’s cemeteries, according to a report in The Telegraph.

More than 16,400 New Yorkers have died in the last two months, a bigger death toll than anything seen since the Spanish Flu of a century ago. At the height of the epidemic, a New Yorker was dying almost every two minutes, four times the city’s normal rate.

Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn is struggling to cope with the numbers, and doesn’t even make a pretense of catering to the demand. Prior to the virus’ outbreak, they dealt with around 65 cremations per week; now, the number has almost tripled, but if they had the capacity, “we’d probably be doing … 400, based on the demand,” the cemetery’s vice president says. Burials are up too, from 20 in the pre-epidemic days to around 45 now. Many people are opting for cremations instead of burials for relatives who have succumbed to Covid-19, hoping to hold a memorial service later when things are “back to normal.”

With cemetery staff working 16-hour shifts, seven days a week, city authorities have suspended air quality rules to permit crematoria to burn around the clock. There have even been suggestions made to use cardboard coffins instead of wood, as they burn more quickly.

Although strict privacy laws prevent the deceased from being identified as coronavirus patients, cemetery workers are told to “be careful with this one,” and many of them don hazmat suits, goggles, and gloves. After the casket is burned, everything is sanitized.

At least the situation is no longer as dire as a month ago, when several funeral homes could no longer cope with the influx of dead. Over 100 decomposing bodies were found in rental trucks – not even refrigerated – outside one Brooklyn funeral home several weeks ago, because “I ran out of space,” the owner said. The Telegraph notes that the city was at one point burying the dead temporarily on Hart Island in the Bronx, until a public outcry in response to images of mass graves put an end to that practice.