New York City has begun digging extra graves in its public cemetery, with pictures showing pine caskets stacked on top of each other in a large burial pit.
It has hired labourers to bury people who have died after contracting the coronavirus and whose bodies have not been claimed.
New York state is by far the worst affected area in the US, with 7,844 dying with COVID-19.
The city’s medical examiner will be allowed to keep the dead in storage for a fortnight before they are transferred to “potter’s field” on Hart Island.
The island is a one-mile strip off the Bronx which can only be accessed by boat and is often used for families who cannot pay for a funeral.
Prison inmates normally help bury the bodies but during the pandemic it has been stopped to prevent the spread of the virus.
Typically, the island buries 25 bodies per week, but numbers have been increasing since March.
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Around 24 bodies are now buried daily, five days a week, the state says.
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Those taken to the island are wrapped in body bags and placed inside pine caskets. Their names are carved onto the casket in case they are later claimed by relatives.
More than a million people are buried there.
The island may also be used as a site for temporary burials should the number of deaths go past the city’s morgue capacity, said Jason Kersten, a spokesman for the state’s department of correction.
“We’re all hoping it’s not coming to this,” Mr Kersten said. “At the same time, we’re prepared if it does.”
Until 2014, families of people buried on the island were unable to visit.
The entire site has been mapped by The Hart Island Project, which keeps a record of every person buried there, as well as supporting the bereaved.
Latest for New York state on Friday revealed another 777 deaths of people with COVID-19, compared with 799 the day before – taking the total close to 8,000.