While Levine took to Twitter to address the temporary burial plan, which he claimed would be starting soon, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner disputed the claim and told NBC News that while these burials are in the OCME disaster plan, they are not being considered or planned for at this time.
In a news conference on Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also noted that while the city has not committed to these temporary burials, the option remains open as funeral homes struggle to accommodate the growing number of deaths. “If we need to do temporary burials to be able to tide this over to pass the crisis and then work with each family on their appropriate arrangements, we have the ability to do that,” de Blasio said, according to The Hill. He added that he would not go into further details but that the city is working to “respect the religious needs of those who are devout,” and to help families to the best of their ability.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that he had not heard about such a plan, raising concerns about the legitimacy of Levine’s tweets. “I have heard a lot of wild rumors, but I have not heard anything about the city burying people in parks,” he said at a daily briefing, The Hil reported. “I didn’t know there was an issue. I haven’t heard that there was an issue.”
The Twitter thread garnered widespread awareness, prompting Levine to issue a statement that clarified this is not a concrete plan but “a contingency NYC is preparing for BUT if the death rate drops enough it will not be necessary.” Many responded to his tweets in anger, pointing out that his thread began by stating that New York would soon start what he called the “temporary interment.” The Twitter thread serves as an example of hearsay that can spread outrage and fear amongst individuals, especially during such a serious global pandemic. Prior to Levine’s statement declaring the burials a contingency and not a plan soon to occur, many replied to the thread with heartbreaking concerns. The thread has raised concerns about potential deaths and how the state will handle a situation in which cemeteries, funeral homes, and freezer trucks are all full.
According to data shared by John Hopkins University, the lives of more than 3,000 New Yorkers have been claimed by the novel coronavirus. In addition to accommodating the deceased, state hospitals are struggling to treat patients as supplies are scarce. New York is not alone—as this pandemic spreads globally, countries face the horrific reality of deciding where the deceased will be buried. According to NBC News, around the world trucks are being used to store corpses and facilities and arenas are being turned into makeshift morgues. As the coronavirus death toll rises, people are not wrong to fear or question where their loved ones will be buried.