New York Buries Hundreds Of Bodies Of Covid-19 Victims In Mass Grave On Hart Island (Photos)
Workers wearing hazmat suits were seen burying caskets in a mass grave on New York’s Hart Island as the number of burials quadruples amid the coronavirus pandemic and the city’s death roll rises to more than 4,200.
Hart Island, sometimes referred to as Hart’s Island, is located at the western end of Long Island Sound, in the northeast Bronx, New York City. Measuring approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) long by 0.33 miles (0.53 km) wide, Hart Island is part of the Pelham Islands archipelago, to the east of City Island.
The remains of more than one million people are buried on Hart Island, though since the first decade of the 21st century, there are fewer than 1,500 burials a year. Burials on Hart Island include individuals who were not claimed by their families or did not have private funerals, as well as the homeless and the indigent. Access to the island is restricted by the Department of Correction, which operates an infrequent ferryboat service and imposes strict visitation quotas. Burials are conducted by Rikers Island inmates. The Hart Island Project, a public charity founded by visual artist Melinda Hunt, has tried to improve access to the island and make burial records more easily available.
Since then it has been used as a women’s psychiatric institution, a tuberculosis sanatorium, a potter’s field burial site and storage for Cold War anti-aircraft missiles.
After its first use as a cemetery in 1868, the island started to be used as a potter’s field for unmarked graves and accounts from the time describe bodies piling up on the island after being transported from hospitals in the city.
By 1958, burials there exceeded 500,000 and it has been used to house the bodies of victims of the 1870 yellow fever epidemic and the 1919 Spanish Flu outbreak.
During the Spanish Flu, when more than 500,000 Americans died, thousands were buried at Hart Island as city burial sites were overwhelmed.
In more recent times, thousands of unclaimed AIDs victims have been buried on the island.
The first were buried in 1985 away from other graves, in the belief that AIDs could infect dead bodies.
In one 200-foot trench the remains of 8,904 babies were buried between 1988 and 1999
It returned to being used as a common grave in the 1980s and is still used to bury unknown or unclaimed people with bodies from across New York taken to the site twice a week and laid to rest by inmates at Rikers Island.
Due to a New York State law from the 1850s and last amended in 2007, a dead person’s next of kin on have 48 hours after death to claim a body for burial.
If the body is unclaimed it becomes legally available as a medical cadavar to be used for training at medical schools or mortuary classes.
The island, which can only be accessed by ferryboat, was sold to the city in 1868 and became a final resting place for unclaimed bodies and those used by medical schools.