New York City is still using refrigerated trailers to store the bodies of COVID-19 victims at a Brooklyn waterfront pier, more than a year since they were first set up as makeshift morgues, city officials disclosed on Friday.
The remains of 750 bodies are being kept in the trailers, which opened in April 2020 as COVID-19 deaths overwhelmed the city’s permanent morgues. Between 500 and 800 bodies have been kept in cold storage at any given time since then, The City reports.
On Wednesday, Dina Maniotis, a deputy commissioner with the Office of Chief Medical Examiner, told a City Council health committee that the setup was always meant to be temporary and that the city will try to reduce the number of bodies in trailers “in the very near future.” Many of the bodies could end up buried in the city’s potter’s field on Hart Island, where most of the families of the dead have requested burial. Other families of the deceased have fallen out of contact with the city.
“We will continue to work with families,” Maniotis told the committee. “As soon as the family tells us they would like their loved one transferred to Hart Island, we do that very quickly.”
Hart Island, the nation’s largest public cemetery, is the final resting place of many of the city’s unclaimed dead. According to an investigation by The City, the island saw a spike in burials last year, with 2,666 laid to rest there in 2020 — far above the typical 1,200 burials annually. There have been 504 burials so far this year.