The rapid increase of deaths because of COVID-19 has resulted in bodies to be sent out of state as New York crematories cannot keep up with the demand.
Due to the coronavirus David Penepent, director of the funeral services administration program at the State University of New York, transports 600 bodies per week to crematories in Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Vermont. Together with six of his students he loads up the three trucks in New York City and then takes the remains to the crematories with availability.
Mr. Penepent commented “It’s like draining a bathtub with a tablespoon, but families now have the opportunity to begin to grieve the loss of their loved one.”
Funeral director Joe Neufeld Sr. from Neufeld Funeral Home in New York said that Mr. Penepent; “He’s been absolutely a godsend.” The funeral home normally does about eight funerals per week and is now arranging 60 funerals per week.
Freezer trucks storing the dead
Even though Mayor De Blasio previously mentioned that New York was looking into the option of temporarily burying the dead on Hart Island, New York is now using special freezer trucks in which bodies can be stored up to a year. This helps give families more time to make funeral arrangements and to say goodbye in a more respectful manner.
Unidentified bodies and unclaimed bodies will still continue to be buried on Hart Island as per normal state protocol. The unclaimed dead have been buried on Hart Island since 1864. With over a million souls resting on the island that is located just east of the Bronx. Many of those buried on Hart Island are there because either their family cannot afford a burial or the funeral home is unable to track down any relatives.
Jason Kersten from the Department of Correction, which is responsible for burying the unclaimed dead at Hart Island, confirmed that where the number of burials is normally 25 or less a week and now over a hundred per week.