Tourist buses used to transport bodies?

By Alex P. Vidal

“The one thing we really don’t need is mass hysteria. Eighty percent of people have such minor symptoms, they don’t actually require any medical care at all. The 20 percent who do feel quite ill need to be evaluated, and some of them will require hospitalization and some of them will require intensive care.” Dr. Robert Murphy, executive director of the Institute for Global Health at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and an infectious diseases professor.

I HEARD a sudden “scream” as soon as I turned left on Baxter Street where the tents for COVID-19 patients were built in the elevated emergency entrance of the Elmhurst Hospital Center in Elmhurst, Queens at past six o’clock in the evening Wednesday (April 15).

When I checked, no one was around.

In fact, nobody was there; not even a single hospital crew or patient. There was eerie silence broken by that mysterious scream, a woman’s voice.

The entire episode had been captured by my four-minute video I started while crossing to the main hospital building on Broadway Street in the beginning.

Earlier in the video’s first two minutes, I attempted in vain to get inside the hospital using the main door on Broadway Street.

It was a tumultuous scene and I thought I couldn’t penetrate the main station where coronavirus patients were being attended to by overworked and exhausted doctors and nurses.

My purpose in going there was to check the refrigerated truck captured in the video taken by Dr. Collin Smith, emergency room doctor, third week of March which was parked near the garbage area (partly hidden from the road on Baxter Street) where bodies of dead COVID-19 victims had been kept reportedly before being burned or buried in undisclosed places.

The refrigerated truck wasn’t there anymore.




Visible in public were some six tinted tourist buses parked outside the hospital on Broadway Street.

We received reports earlier that the state-of-the-art tourist buses “were being used to transport COVID-19 patients” after reports came out days earlier that some of the dead bodies had been brought to the Hart Island when mortuaries overflowed as the death toll increased by 40 percent first week of April.

The National Geographic confirmed April 13 that with record-breaking coronavirus-related deaths overwhelming morgues and mortuaries in New York City, “the public cemetery on Hart Island is seeing an increase in burials—from 24 a week to 24 a day.”

By April 13, the report said, more than 10,000 people in the city had died from COVID-19, after daily deaths surpassed 700 for five days.

“Some coronavirus victims are being laid to rest at Hart Island, in Long Island Sound, just east of the Bronx,” reported the National Geographic.

“Since 1869, the wind-swept, mile-long island with rocky shores and crumbling buildings has taken in the bodies of people with no known next of kin, including those who have died from diseases of epidemic proportions.”




A spokesperson for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office said that, of those who perished from COVID-19, only New Yorkers whose bodies are not claimed by family members are being buried at Hart Island.

The New York Times, meanwhile, reiterated that the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. is in New York, particularly concentrated in New York City and its surrounding areas.

As of Wednesday evening, 11,586 people had died, data from the John Hopkins Hospital revealed.

But the number of new cases in the state seems to have reached a plateau, according to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo who said, “I believe the worst is over if we continue to be smart.”

As of Wednesday (April 15), New York City looks nothing like its former loud bustling self with many of its thoroughfares quiet and subdued.

Ridership in poorer neighborhoods, where many must continue commuting to work, has not changed as dramatically while subway use has plunged.

The city’s low-income neighborhoods have been hit the hardest by the pandemic, it was reported. Many of the areas with the highest percentage of confirmed virus cases have the lowest median income, based on data from the first month of the outbreak.

Reports said preliminary data on the City’s fatalities shows that the outbreak is killing black and Latino people at twice the rate that it is killing white people.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)