Coronavirus News: Woman fights to allow donations of burial plots for COVID victims

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Thursday, December 10, 2020
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There is a new movement on Long Island to allow owners of unused burial plots to donate those graves to families of COVID-19 victims.

UNIONDALE, Long Island (WABC) -- There is a new movement on Long Island to allow owners of unused burial plots to donate those graves to families of COVID-19 victims.

One woman's gesture to help others could lead to hundreds more as the need continues to increase.

Deborah Salant, a Franklin Square resident, came up with the idea.

Her great-grandfather purchased a family plot in 1916 at Greenfield Cemetery, which is owned by the down of Hempstead.

But Salant already had her own plot, and recently, she saw news reports about the as many as 650 bodies of COVID-19 victims still in freezer trucks in Brooklyn.

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"And I just could not believe what I heard, and I said, 'I'm going to do something,'" Salant said.

But longstanding town code prohibits any transfer of burial rights at the cemetery unless it's to a family member.

Salant could have given up - but she didn't.

The town Supervisor explained that Salant wrote to them, then spoke at their meeting this week and they have now passed legislation to suspend the town code during the pandemic - therefore permitting plot owners to transfer them to families of COVID victims for free.

"And she broke down in tears but we gave her the applause she deserves," Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin said.

The stories about families struggling to bury their loved ones have been heartbreaking. It's a problem the cemetery felt last April when they had to create more space for burials.

Funeral processions for COVID patients were lining up with as many as 20 per day.

"We're just shy in 2020 of doubling the number of funerals we saw in 2019, so it shows you the magnitude of the loss," Clavin said.

But because of Salant, others can now free up more space for those who may be in need.

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