WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - With funeral homes in New York City overwhelmed by the number of COVID-19 victims, some of those victims will be cremated in northern New York, starting this weekend.
The first crematory to be used is the Oswegatchie Crematory, according to Chad Green, owner of Donaldson’s Funeral Home in Massena, who is helping coordinate the cremations.
Up to 40 bodies are expected initially.
“The four crematories in New York City just can’t handle this volume,” Green told 7 News Friday.
Families "are being turned away, told to come back in a month, " said Darien Frederick, a funeral director in Watertown and lecturer with SUNY Canton’s mortuary science program who is also coordinating between New York City funeral homes and crematories upstate and out of state.
“The funeral homes down there are so overwhelmed,” she said. “They’re trying to outsource their cremations.”
“We’re happy to help what we can do up here," said Timothy Tuttle, manager of the Oswegatchie Cemetery.
"Our death rate up here obviously is much much lower, I’ve got capacity to do extra. So we’re happy to help.”
Green said that while Osewgatchie Crematory - located just outside Ogdensburg, in the Foxwood Memorial Park - is the first one to be used, Frederick Brothers Funeral Home, Theresa, and Brookside Cemetery, Watertown, have also been contacted about the possible use of their crematories.
Green said the New York State Funeral Directors Association is trying to "assist the families that are grieving down there.
"Otherwise they’re waiting six, eight weeks to have their loved ones cremated.
“It’s why we go into this business, to serve people.”
Frederick said the bodies have been prepared by funeral directors in New York City and pose no risk to the public, and “very low risk” to the funeral professionals involved in the cremations.
She said people doing the transporting and at the crematories are wearing protective equipment. At Oswegatchie, boxes will also be sprayed down with disinfectant.
“They’re in normally at least two body bags and sanitized between each layer," Tuttle, the crematory manager, said.
“There should be no alarm at all and we’re sanitizing once again once they get here so it’s no threat to the local public.”
By far, the majority of COVID-19 fatalities in New York state have been in the New York City area.