Dozens buried in New York mass grave as coronavirus deaths surge

New York is burying some of its dead in a mass grave as its daily coronavirus death toll reaches grim new records.

Workers in hazmat outfits are seen stacking wooden coffins in the deep trenches of a mass grave in Hart Island, New York.

Officials say burials are being ramped up at this site, which has long been used for people with no next-of-kin or for families who cannot afford a funeral.

Normally, about 25 people per week are buried here. But that number has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic to an average of 24 burials a day. 

Prisoners from Rikers Island, New York City’s main jail complex, usually do the job. But the increased workload has recently been taken over by contractors.

It is not clear how many of the dead have no next of kin or could not afford a funeral. However, the city has cut the amount of time it will hold unclaimed remains amid pressure on morgue space.

Overwhelmed hospitals in New York City have been placing bodies in refrigerated trucks parked outside their doors.

“We lost 2,753 lives on 9/11. We’ve lost over 7,000 lives to this crisis,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

“That is so shocking, and painful, and breathtaking. I don’t even have the words for it. 9/11 was so devastating, so tragic and then, in many ways, we lose so many more New Yorkers to this silent killer. There was no explosion. But it was a silent explosion that just ripples through society with the same randomness, the same evil that we saw on 9/11.”

New York officials say there has been a drop in hospital admissions, indicating the infection curve may be flattening, but for now, the death toll continues to rise.

With more than 188,600 confirmed infections, New York now has more coronavirus cases than any other country, with the United States confirming at least 557,600 cases of infection.

This report was produced and edited by Al Jazeera NewsFeed’s Hassan Ghani.