In one of the most shocking updates on the coronavirus pandemic so far, New York City Council member Mark D. Levine shared information about the handling of corpses in the city on Monday. In a lengthy thread on Twitter, Levine explained that the city's systems for handling the remains of the dead and laying them to rest are stretched to their breaking point. He revealed that the city's parks will soon be used for "temporary interment."
Levine has been using Twitter to keep the public informed on the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City — currently the North American epicenter of the virus. On Monday, he posted 13 tweets about how morgues, funeral homes and graveyards have been overrun in recent weeks. Levine laid out the situation in heart-wrenching detail, explaining how every aspect of the system is now over its capacity. He then explained what comes next: temporary burials in New York City parks.
Soon we'll start "temporary interment". This likely will be done by using a NYC park for burials (yes you read that right). Trenches will be dug for 10 caskets in a line.
It will be done in a dignified, orderly--and temporary--manner. But it will be tough for NYers to take. 9/— Mark D. Levine (@MarkLevineNYC) April 6, 2020
This was the ninth tweet in a series, and followed Levine's description of how human remains are typically handled versus how they are being handled right now. He described refrigerated trailers holding 100 bodies each, brought in to bolster the capacity of crowded hospital morgues. He revealed that many hospitals in the city now have two or three full trailers parked outside, but most of those are full now as well.
Levine's tweets also included some horrifying numbers to consider. For example, he wrote that "on an average day before the crisis, there were 20-25 deaths at home in NYC. Now in the midst of this pandemic the number is 200-215. Every day."
Levine wrote that the virus is "the equivalent of an ongoing 9/11" for medical examiners. Even so, he suspects that the death toll is being severely under-counted, because there are not enough coronavirus tests to be administered to the dead. Therefore many people who pass away at home are not being counted towards the total victims of COVID-19 — either for the city or the country.
To recap: Nothing matters more in this crisis than saving the living. But we need to face the gruesome reality that we need more resources to manage our dead as well. Or the pain of this crisis will be compounded almost beyond comprehension. 13/13— Mark D. Levine (@MarkLevineNYC) April 6, 2020
As bleak as this information is, Levine noted that it is still not as bad as things got in other parts of the world, including Italy, where he said "the military was forced to collect bodies from churches and even off the streets." He also wrote that New York is receiving outside help from other parts of the U.S., but that it is going to need more.
"We need to ask not just for doctors and nurses and respiratory therapists. We also need mortuary affairs staff. This is tough to talk about and maybe tough to ask for. But we have no choice... Or the pain of this crisis will be compounded almost beyond comprehension," he wrote.
For the latest information on the coronavirus pandemic, visit the CDC's website.