Four and a half years ago, the New York Times published a feature about a man named George Bell, a Queens resident who died anonymously in his apartment, and whose body, after going unclaimed for several months, was eventually interred at the potter's field on Hart Island, in the Bronx, where all of NYC's unclaimed bodies are eventually buried.
They say more than 1 million bodies have been buried on the island since shortly before the Civil War, when the city started using it as a burial ground. And now, dozens of patients who succumbed to COVID-19 will likely be buried there too as the city accelerates its potter's field burials as morgues and funeral homes fill up.
By now, Americans have probably seen photos of the makeshift morgues set up in ice trucks, and the hospital tents set up around the city as it battles the virus. The city has already buried some coronavirus victims on the island, and is planning more burials in the coming days. Though to be sure not all of those expected to be buried died of COVID-19.
"It is likely that people who have passed away from (coronavirus)...will be buried on the island in the coming days," New York City Mayor Press Secretary Freddi Goldstein told CNN.
Instead of waiting two months to transfer an unclaimed body to the island, the city has sped up the amount of time it will hold a body to 2 weeks.
Usually, about 25 people are buried on the island every week. But since the virus landed, that pace has accelerated to 25 a day, the city said. NYC has also said it plans to bury some victims in local city parks, a plan that was widely mocked for its ghoulishness by New Yorkers.
Deaths across the state - but in the city especially - have been piling up in recent days, as Gov. Cuomo showed earlier.
A city spokesperson added that as long as contact with a family member has been made, a body will be kept, even if it's just a verbal claim.