Startling Photos Show Mass Burials in NYC Public Cemetery

The coronavirus pandemic death toll in New York City is still rising, and the city is becoming overwhelmed with the amount of human remains it needs to account for. Photos published by CBS News show the mass burials being performed in NYC's potter's field on Hart Island. The public cemetery is reportedly seeing nearly as many burials every day as it used to see in a full week.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused an extreme shortage of morgue space in New York City, with hospitals full and refrigerated trucks parked outside of them. The city has instituted a new policy saying that the medical examiner's office will keep bodies in storage for no more than 14 days before they are buried in the public cemetery on Hart Island. Families that cannot afford funerals right now are seeing their loved ones laid to rest with other COVID-19 victims in long trenches. Any bodies that go unclaimed by family or friends are relegated to this potter's field as well.

Startling images from the scene were taken on April 9, showing workers digging graves and settling unadorned caskets side-by-side in one long trench. The workers wore protective suits as they handled the bodies, which are now resting in a limited-access strip of land near the Bronx. Department of Correction spokesman Jason Kersten told CBS News that the daily operations at the public cemetery have risen exponentially.

Before the pandemic, Kersten said they typically buried around 25 bodies per week. Now, he said, they are averaging about 24 burials per day. New York City has already been grappling with the issue of limited storage space for human remains, and all the heartache that comes with it. The city previously considered the possibility of temporary burials in Central Park and other public land if the death toll continues to rise.

At the time of this writing, New York City has had over 165,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, as well as 12,774 deaths. Additionally, the city has seen 36,300 confirmed recoveries. The U.S. as a whole has now had over 1 million confirmed cases, 60,714 deaths, and 119,000 confirmed recoveries. The country still suffers from a lack of access to testing, however, so some experts speculate that those numbers are not completely accurate. For the latest information on the coronavirus pandemic, visit the websites of the CDC and the World Health Organization.