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In the spring of 2020, Hart Island, a mile from City Island in the Bronx, was a focal point of grief in New York. It was here, at the city’s public cemetery or potter’s field, the final resting place of more than a million people, that officials ordered trenches dug to accommodate those the coronavirus was expected to kill.
The trenches were never filled. Many bodies were returned to funeral parlours or stored in mobile freezers on Randall’s Island, better known for music festivals and the Frieze art fair than cold storage of corpses.
Last week, as New York was once again in the grip of a pandemic spike, the ferry jetty was devoid of morbid feelings, even with infections running at a 35% positivity rate, close to five times the peak of last winter.
“We haven’t seen anyone here – or any of the trucks coming like they used to,” said one Hart Island worker.
The winter Covid wave has hit the Bronx hard. The borough has the city’s highest positivity rate, in some neighbourhoods near 50%. But for many this wave feels different, not least in the way leaders and health officials are treating it.
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