The bodies of New York City coronavirus victims are still being stored in refrigerated trailers converted into makeshift morgues during the height of the pandemic one year ago, according to the medical examiner’s office.
The long-term temporary morgue at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal holding 750 bodies – not all victims of Covid-19 – is a reminder of the crush of coronavirus fatalities that overwhelmed city hospitals, mortuaries and funeral homes last spring.
In early April 2020, more than 800 coronavirus deaths were reported in a single day in New York City. During the week of April 5, an average of 566 were dying every day in the city, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“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,” said Mark Desire, a spokesman for the Office of Chief Medical Examiner.
In late March 2020, refrigerated trailers also served as makeshift morgues outside city hospitals amid the surging death count in the epicenter of the nation’s coronavirus pandemic.
The last time New York resorted to such drastic measures was after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when the medical examiner’s office had to identify tens of thousands of body parts from the 2,753 people killed in the World Trade Center collapse.
Desire said the medical examiner’s office is assisting families in making arrangements for final resting places for the dead.
“With sensitivity and compassion, we continue to work with individual families on a case-by-case basis during their period of mourning,” Desire said.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner had purchased additional refrigerated trucks and the Federal Emergency Management Agency had provided the city with 80 of its trucks last year.
City officials announced last April that a potter’s field for the poor and unclaimed on Hart Island would be used to bury victims of the virus.
Desire said the temporary morgue at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal “was established to provide longer term storage for decedents during the peak of the pandemic when the funeral industry was stressed.”
“This additional storage capacity gave the families the time they needed to make final disposition arrangements,” he said.