On Thursday alone there were at least 40 wooden boxes buried in a freshly dug mass grave, photos show.
The bodies are typically wrapped in body bags and placed in pine boxes, with their names scrawled on the top.
“They added two new trenches in case we need them,” Jason Kersten, a spokesman for the city Department of Correction, told Reuters. “For social distancing and safety reasons, city-sentenced people in custody are not assisting in burials for the duration of the pandemic.”
The change in the system is hoped to alleviate the crunch on morgue space in the city due to the spread of the virus.
Under the new policy, the city Medical Examiner’s Office said it will now hold bodies in storage for 14 days before they are shipped out for burial if they remain unclaimed.
Asked earlier in the week if suspected coronavirus patients were among the dead, officials said they were uncertain because it is unknown if some deceased were not tested. The city’s count of COVID-19 deaths is believed to be inaccurate because “probable cases” of those found dead in their homes are not tested.
Melinda Hunt, director of the nonprofit Hart Island Project, told The Post earlier this week that 23 people were buried last Thursday — typically the date when burials occur on the island — and that the number of bodies has spiked lately.
The city corrections department has used inmates to bury the Big Apple’s anonymous and unclaimed dead for 150 years.
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