Hart Island has been used as the final resting place for people who died unclaimed, for decades.
And now it will also be used for unclaimed coronavirus victims.
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio responded Friday to concerns that mass burials would be needed because of the high number of fatalities caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“There will be no mass burials on Hart Island,” de Blasio tweeted. “Everything will be individual and every body will be treated with dignity.”
The mayor added in the tweet, “The heartbreaking numbers of deaths we’re seeing means we are sadly losing more people without family or friends to bury them privately. Those are the people who will be buried on Hart Island, with every measure of respect and dignity New York City can provide.”
Drone photos appeared to show groups of caskets being covered with dirt in long trenches on Hart Island.
“This is not a new procedure,” de Blasio said at a news conference, adding it’s a “sad topic.”
Press secretary Freddi Goldstein said that it is likely that people who have died from coronavirus will be buried on the island in the coming days.
Hart Island is managed by the Department of Correction and has been used by the city as a public cemetery for over 150 years. The Hart island burials are mostly people who have been unclaimed at the city’s morgue for anywhere from 30 to 60 days.
Goldstein added that the city is transferring unclaimed bodies to Hart Island to make way for other coronavirus victims whose bodies will be claimed. New rules from the medical examiner’s office say bodies will be taken to the island if they go unclaimed for two weeks.
The press secretary also highlighted that only people who have not been claimed by relatives will be buried on the island. Despite the new rule from the medical examiner, she said as long as morgue officials make contact with a relative within 14 days, they will not be moved to Hart Island.
“These are people who, for two weeks, we have not been able to find anyone who says, ‘I know that person, I love that person, I will handle the burial. These are people who we have made zero contact with the family.”
Usually, about 25 people are buried on the island each week, but since coronavirus began claiming victims in the US.