Hundreds of COVID victims are in refrigerated trucks in New York months after death

Hundreds of New York’s COVID-19 victims are still waiting to be buried, months after their deaths.

Nearly 650 bodies are being stored in refrigerated trucks outside a morgue set up in Brooklyn during April to ease pressure on funeral directors.

At the time, the city was seeing a surge in virus cases, with up to 800 deaths each day.

For about 230 victims, the medical examiner’s office is struggling to trace relatives.

In the other cases, relatives have not collected the bodies because they are unsure what to do with them or have not made financial arrangements for their burial, according to officials quoted by The Wall Street Journal.

Usually, those who cannot afford a burial are laid to rest at a gravesite for the poor on Hart Island in the Long Bay Sound.

This would normally take place within a few weeks but New York City mayor Bill de Blasio has already said there will be no mass burials at the site.

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In recent days, Mr de Blasio said: “Those who we lost, their families are still trying to determine the best way to provide services for them and just have been struggling because of the pandemic and other challenges.

“So we’re trying to work with each and every family of those we lost who are in that situation to make sure that they can have the kind of services they want to have at the right time.”

The situation is slowly improving – the number of bodies in storage has fallen from 698 to 650 since mid-September, according to Dina Maniotis, executive deputy commissioner at the the chief medical examiner’s office.

Chief Medical Examiner Dr Barbara Sampson said: “Supporting families and helping facilitate respectful final arrangements for individuals who passed at the height of the pandemic reflects the core mission of the Office of Chief Medical Examiner.”

More than 34,000 people have died with COVID-19 in New York state, according to data from US university Johns Hopkins.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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