New York City is bracing for a surge in coronavirus cases and deaths, with local officials expecting so many that one lawmaker said they may need to bury bodies in the city’s parks just to make space.
City councilman Mark Levine said in a series of tweets on Monday that medical facilities currently used to store bodies in Manhattan and Brooklyn will soon be full as the death toll continues to rise. That would mean the city would need to take part in what he called “temporary interment” — burying bodies on a short-term basis to make room and later exhuming the bodies for a proper burial.
“This likely will be done by using a NYC park for burials (yes you read that right),” he wrote.
“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.”
As the New York Post noted, Levine later clarified that there are no concrete plans yet to use parks for temporary burials and that it is only a contingency plan if the death rate doesn’t drop enough. It was not clear when that might need to happen should it reach that point.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was asked about the contingency plan later in the day, and confirmed that the city was looking into the possibility of temporary burials, but would not say where or how they would happen.
“I’m not going into details,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a great thing to be talking about.”
The city has become the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, with close to 68,000 confirmed cases through midday on Monday. As the New York Times reported, the city is bracing for an even bigger rush of cases ahead and a critical shortage of needed medical supplies. In a new conference on Sunday, de Blasio said that that city had enough of these supplies to last a few days, with just 135 ventilators on reserve but needing between 1,000 and 1,500 more just to make it through to next week.
The city has already responded to the increase in hospitalization by calling on medical professionals from outside the state to help and build temporary hospitals. That includes a field hospital built over the course of a little more than two days in Central Park, taking overflow patients from the Mount Sinai Hospital system.