No, coronavirus victims will not be buried in New York City parks if there is overcrowding at the Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME). Mayor Bill de Blasio dismantled the rumor, saying it was “totally false.”
“There will never, ever be anything like quote on quote mass graves or mass interment in New York City — ever,” the mayor said on NY1, as noted by the New York Post. “If God forbid we ever had to get to the point of a temporary burial, it would be individual by individual so that families could reclaim their loved ones when the crisis was over.”
The number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. has eclipsed 378,000, with nearly 12,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. In New York, there were 72,324 confirmed cases on Tuesday and 3,202 people had died.
“It’s going to be very tough but we have the capacity,” the mayor added in a press conference, as reported by the New York Times.
There could be temporary burials at Hart Island, a public cemetery located in Long Island Sound. “If we need to do temporary burials to be able to tide us over to pass the crisis, and then work with each family on their appropriate arrangements, we have the ability to do that,” de Blasio added. “We may well be dealing with temporary burials so we can deal with each family later.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he would not support burying people in parks. “I have heard nothing about that,” the governor said during a press conference on Monday. “I’ve heard a lot of wild rumors, but I have not heard anything about the city burying people in parks.” When asked directly if he would allow coronavirus victims to be buried in parks, he said no.
Caitlin Doughty, a mortician and prominent YouTube personality who advocates death acceptance, also debunked the rumor. She created a video for her nearly 100,000 followers in which she said there are plenty of contingency plans if the state’s morgues become overwhelmed. There could be temporary burials at Hart Island, but “New York City is not there yet. Central Park is not a cemetery.”
Why Do People Think Coronavirus Victims Will Be Buried in NYC Parks?
On Monday, City Councilman Mark Levine said temporary burial in parks could be a possibility if the morgues become too full to contain the number of dead. “Soon we’ll start ‘temporary interment.’ This likely will be done by using a NYC park for burials (yes you read that right). Trenches will be dug for 10 caskets in a line,” he tweeted Monday. “It will be done in a dignified, orderly–and temporary–manner. But it will be tough for NYers to take.”
Hours later, Levine walked back his earlier statements. “I have spoken to many folks in City gov’t today, and received unequivocal assurance that there will be *no* burials in NYC Parks. All have stated clearly that if temporary interment should be needed it will be done on Hart Island,” he said.
Levine added: “And that of course if such burials are required they will be done in a dignified, orderly, professional manner. Let’s all keep working hard to slow this virus so that such steps are not in fact needed.”
What Is Hart Island?
According to the New York Daily News, nearly 1 million New Yorkers are buried on Hart Island, a public island cemetery in Long Island Sound. The only way to get there is by ferry. The confusion about having coronavirus victims being buried in parks might have started because the site was turned into a park last year. The City Council wanted to honor the people who are buried there. Many of them died during the AIDS epidemic.