Latest on the coronavirus: New York has more cases than any country
Drone pictures show bodies being buried on New York's Hart Island where the department of corrections is dealing with more burials overall, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in New York City, U.S., on April 9, 2020. (REUTERS Photo)
New York City officials have hired contract laborers to bury the dead in its potter's field on Hart Island as the city's daily death rate from the coronavirus epidemic has reached grim new records in each of the last three days.
The city has used Hart Island to bury New Yorkers with no known next of kin or whose family are unable to arrange a funeral since the 19th century.
Typically, some 25 bodies are interred each week by low-paid jail inmates working on the island, which sits off the east shore of the city's Bronx borough and is accessible only by boat. That number began increasing in March as the new coronavirus spread rapidly, making New York the epicenter of the global pandemic.
There are about two dozen bodies a day, five days a week buried on the island, said Jason Kersten, a spokesman for the Department of Correction, which oversees the burials.
Before burial, the dead are wrapped in body bags and placed inside pine caskets. The deceased's name is scrawled in large letters on each casket, which helps should a body need to be disinterred later. They are buried in long narrow trenches excavated by digging machines.
"They added two new trenches in case we need them," Kersten said. To help with the surge, and amid an outbreak of the COVID-19 respiratory illness caused by the virus at the city's main jail, contract laborers have been hired, he said.
"For social distancing and safety reasons, city-sentenced people in custody are not assisting in burials for the duration of the pandemic," Kersten said.
A barge could be seen arriving at the island on April 9 morning with a refrigerated truck aboard containing about two dozen bodies.
The department referred questions about causes of death to the city's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME). Aja Worthy-Davis, a spokeswoman, said it would take time to collate individual causes of death from the office's records, but it was probable some of the recent burials include those felled by the coronavirus.
The island may also be used as a site for temporary interments should deaths surge past the city's morgue capacity, a point that has not yet been reached, Kersten and Worthy-Davis said.
"We're all hoping it's not coming to this," Kersten said. "At the same time, we're prepared if it does."
OCME can store about 800 to 900 bodies in its buildings, and has room to store about 4,000 bodies in some 40 refrigerated trucks it can dispatch around the city to hospitals, which typically have only small morgues, Worthy-Davis said.
Another island to the south of Hart, Randall's Island in the East River, is being used as a parking depot for dozens of empty refrigerated trucks between deployments outside city hospitals.
On April 9, two trucks containing bodies that had been parked outside a hospital were temporarily moved back to the island depot, in a stadium parking lot, to make way for a delivery of oxygen and other supplies at the hospital.
"They will not stay there," Avery Cohen, a City Hall spokeswoman, wrote in an email.
City health officials could be seen on Thursday transferring bodies from the two trucks into three hearses dispatched by funeral homes.
New York state has now recorded more than 7,000 deaths from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus.
New York state has now recorded more infections than any country - including the hardest-hit European countries, Italy and Spain.
Almost 160,000 people in New York have tested positive with the virus, compared to 153,000 in Spain and 143,000 in Italy.
Deaths and infections
- The number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide passed the 1.6 million on April 10 as the pandemic swept across the globe.
- Johns Hopkins University's website showed over 95,000 people have died from the virus.
- The total number of people recovered from COVID-19 reached passed 355,000, according to the data.
- Spain's prime minister warned that nationwide confinement would likely last until May even though he said the worst should soon be over and the death toll slowed.
- The Italian government is planning to extend its lockdown until May 3, two trade union sources told Reuters on April 9 after meeting ministers.
- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson left intensive care on April 9 evening as he continues to recover from COVID-19, but he remains under close observation in hospital.
- The British government defended its early handling of the outbreak after a Reuters investigation found its scientific advisers were too slow to communicate their growing concerns.
- Social distancing measures have helped Germany to slightly slow the spread of the coronavirus, Chancellor Angela Merkel said.
- Russia reported a record one-day rise in cases, pushing its tally to more than 10,000.
- The Czech Republic plans to roll out a system of quickly tracking and isolating contacts of people with the virus to eventually allow the lifting of blanket restrictions.
- Slovakia closed off several Roma settlements in the eastern part of the country after reports of virus clusters in five of them.
- Bulgaria's prime minister said the country's Orthodox churches and temples will be open for traditional Palm Sunday and Easter services despite the outbreak.
- Americans must persevere with social distancing, U.S. medical and state officials said, as New York hospitalizations ebbed but the state's death toll spiked again. Meanwhile, total cases in the country crossed 427,000, with the death toll nearing 32,500.
- U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the American economy could start to reopen for business in May, despite experts' emphasis on prolonged social distancing measures.
- Canada's death toll is set to soar from the current 435 to as high as 22,000 by the end of the pandemic, while the economy lost a record 1 million jobs last month.
- Lockdowns in Brazil's largest cities are beginning to slip, according to new data this week seen and analyzed by Reuters, with more people leaving their homes as President Jair Bolsonaro continues to criticize the measures.
- Chile will start handing out certificates to people who have recovered from the coronavirus that will exempt them from adhering to quarantines or other restrictions.
Asia and the Pacific
- China will allocate more resources to prevent the spread of the virus from its land borders, as the country still faces risks of a comeback after new clusters are identified in some regions.
- The total number of infections in Japan hit more than 5,300 on April 9, showing no signs of slowing despite a state of emergency being imposed on Tokyo and six other areas.
- India claimed initial success in its fight against the epidemic, saying it would have been hit with 820,000 cases by next week had it not imposed a nationwide lockdown.
- Vietnam said more than 1,000 healthcare workers and 14,400 others linked to an outbreak at a Hanoi hospital have tested negative.
- Singapore confirmed 287 new infections on April 9, its biggest daily increase yet, with more than 200 of them linked to outbreaks in dormitories for foreign workers.
- Indonesia reported its biggest daily jump in deaths on April 9, while neighbouring Malaysia had its second-lowest daily increase since a partial lockdown was imposed on March 18.
- Australian police said they have taken the "black box" of a cruise ship which disembarked hundreds of infected passengers in Sydney, as part of a homicide investigation into the country's deadliest infection source.
Middle East and Africa
- Yemen reported its first case of the novel coronavirus on April 10 as aid groups try to prepare for an outbreak in a country where war has shattered the health system and spread hunger and disease.
- Iran's health ministry on April 9 said 117 new deaths from the novel coronavirus took the total to 4,110 in one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic. "We have identified 1,634 new cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 66,220," ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said, adding that the latest figures showed there was a downward trend in the number of new coronavirus infections.
- South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa extended a lockdown by two weeks to the end of April.
- A South African public sector union withdrew a court case against the government over shortages of protective gear for frontline health workers.
- All Botswana's parliamentarians including the president will be quarantined for two weeks and tested, after a health worker screening lawmakers for the virus tested positive.
- Lebanon extended its almost month-long shutdown by another two weeks until April 26.
- Political and physical divisions in the West Bank and Gaza have induced two very different responses, with a strict lockdown in the first and crowds milling about freely in the second.
- Global stocks moved higher on April 9 following signs of some success by governments and central banks which have taken additional steps to bolster their economies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The pandemic will turn global economic growth "sharply negative" in 2020, triggering the worst fallout since the 1930s Great Depression, with only a partial recovery seen in 2021, the head of the International Monetary Fund said.
- A partisan skirmish in the U.S. Senate cut short a Republican effort to speed $250 billion in new small business assistance.
- The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits in the last three weeks has blown past 15 million, with weekly new claims topping 6 million for the second straight time.
- The U.S. Federal Reserve rolled out a broad, $2.3 trillion effort to bolster local governments and small and mid-sized businesses.
- The White House is expected to announce soon formation of a second coronavirus task force, this one devoted to getting the economy going again when the time is right.
- Prospects for a European Union deal on a package to support its coronavirus-battered economies brightened as Germany put its foot down to end opposition from the Netherlands and to reassure Italy that the EU would show it solidarity.
- The Bank of England has agreed temporarily to finance government borrowing if funds cannot immediately be raised from debt markets.
- The French government more than doubled the expected cost of its coronavirus crisis measures, pushing the budget deficit and national debt to record levels.