New York’s burial service is overcrowded while the number of deaths due to Covid-19 exceeds 10,000. Officials were forced to send hundreds of bodies to cremation.
Funeral companies in New York City are struggling daily with a record number of deaths. As of April 23, the region recorded more than 142,000 infections and at least 10,977 deaths from Covid-19, the highest epidemic data in the US.
Four of the city’s crematoriums were working at full capacity while hospitals had to use refrigerated vehicles to store their bodies. Before the overload, funeral homes decided to take hundreds of bodies to cremation, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The director of funeral service management program at New York University, Mr. David Penepent, is the coordinator of the movement and cremation of the bodies of patients with Covid-19.
He and his students drove to New York every Wednesday, depositing the bodies in refrigerated boxes and taking them outside the city to cremation. Their journey usually lasts a week and ends at cremation in Connecticut, Pennsylvania or Vermont.
According to Mr. Penepent, the program successfully transported 210 patient bodies in the past two weeks. “Our efforts are like bringing salt to the sea. But at least 210 families have had the opportunity to bury their loved ones. ”
Mr. Penepent said the program would try to mobilize more refrigerated cars to transport 600 bodies a week.
“He is a gift from God,” director Joe Neufeld of a funeral company commented on Mr. Penepent. The company is holding about 60 funerals a day, compared to eight at the time before the outbreak.
According to Mr. Neufeld, cremation procedures during the epidemic can last up to several months. New York City has only 4 crematoriums, and the unit has said it only accepts 100 bodies a day.
The New York Burial Association has called on families to take victims’ bodies to cremation outside the state.
The association also urged the military to take part in transporting bodies outside the city to reduce overcrowding. But the authorities have not responded to requests for comment on this issue.
Recently, the New York state government has relaxed regulations and allowed burial companies outside the state to participate in the handling of bodies.
According to Mr. Penepent, the above change is not enough. He thought it would be much easier if the government allowed families to arrange their own burial matters.