Unclaimed bodies of coronavirus victims may be buried in New York’s Hart Island

Drone pictures show bodies being buried on New York's Hart Island. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

NEW YORK CITY – New York officials say that Hart Island, which for decades has been used as the final resting place for those who died unclaimed, will now also be used for unclaimed coronavirus victims.

"It is likely that people who have passed away from (coronavirus).... will be buried on the Island in the coming days," New York City Mayor Press Secretary Freddi Goldstein told CNN.

Hart Island has been used by the city as a public cemetery for over 150 years and is managed by the Department of Corrections. The Hart island burials are mostly people who have been unclaimed at the city's morgue for anywhere from 30 to 60 days, Goldstein said.

Over one million people are interred there.

The city is transferring unclaimed bodies to Hart Island to make way for other coronavirus victims whose bodies will be claimed, Goldstein said. New rules from the medical examiner's office say bodies will be taken to the island if they go unclaimed for two weeks.

Only people who have not been claimed by relatives or a loved will be buried there, Goldstein highlighted. Despite the new rule from the medical examiner, Goldstein said as long as morgue officials make contact with a relative within 14 days, they will not be moved to Hart Island.

"These are people who, for two weeks, we have not been able to find anyone who says 'I know that person I love that person I will handle the burial,'" Goldstein said. "These are people who we have made zero contact with the family."

Usually, about 25 people are buried on the island each week, Goldstein said. But since coronavirus began claiming victims in the US, she said there are 25 people buried there each day.