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Over 700 COVID-19 victims remain in refrigerated trucks in NYC

Kaylee Greenlee, DCNF

750 bodies of people who died of COVID-19 are being kept in refrigerated trailers in New York City, the Associated Press reported Friday.

Refrigerated trucks were set up to provide temporary morgue space at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic over a year ago, according to the AP. Bodies remain in long-term refrigerated storage at a Brooklyn pier as families make burial arrangements.

“Long term storage was created at the height of the pandemic to ensure that families could lay their loved ones to rest as they see fit,” Medical Examiner’s Office spokesperson Mark Desire said, the AP reported. “With sensitivity and compassion, we continue to work with individual families on a case by case basis during their period of mourning.”

Many of the bodies might end up buried at a public cemetery on Hart Island, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner Deputy Commissioner Dina Maniotis said, the AP reported. City officials decided in April 2020 that unclaimed bodies would remain in storage for two weeks before they were buried in the public cemetery.

Officials considered temporarily burying unclaimed bodies in the cemetery so they could be moved at a later time, according to the AP. However, Desire said the next-of-kin of any COVID-19 victims still stored in refrigerated trucks will have the option for permanent burial on the island.

Between 500 and 800 bodies were kept in refrigerated trucks and trailers since April 2020, according to data gathered by Columbia’s Stabile Center for Investigative Reporting and The City.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency provided 85 refrigerated trucks to alleviate the city’s full morgues and storage within hospitals as COVID-19 related deaths devastated New York, the AP reported. Some were stationed near hospitals where workers had to use forklifts to move bodies into the trucks.

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