Woodlawn Cemetery Prepared for Worst-Case Pandemic Scenario

(CNYCentral.com) In mid-April, two refrigerator trucks arrived near the crematorium at Woodlawn Cemetery in Syracuse. They are owned by the New York State Office of Emergency Management and are typically stored at the State Fairgrounds. Moving them to the Crematorium at Woodlawn was a move that speaks to a level of pandemic preparedness few have known about, until now.

Cemetery Superintendent Steven Sloane sent word to the state through local officials that his crematorium would be willing to step up, in a nightmare scenario.

“These are assets the state already had and it is sure nice to know that you can get this sort of thing, if you need it,” Sloane said.

Cremation center building with sign

The two refrigerator trucks have not been used to store bodies. They are on standby in case the virus takes a dramatic turn and leads to mass-death in the Syracuse area.

“Places in New York City have been overwhelmed and they have virus victims in cold storage,” Sloane said. He is thankful that is not the case here.

Two refrigerated trucks outside the crematorium at Woodlawn Cemetery in Syracuse. In the event of a mass death, they were placed there in case the state needed to store bodies of people who had died from COVID-19.

It is not clear for how long the trucks will remain parked in the back of the cemetery. Over the last several weeks the Woodlawn Crematorium has been used to cremate bodies of nearly 200 COVID-19 victims who lived downstate. Sloane sees that cooperation and assistance as a point of community-wide pride.

“I feel for the families. They have not been able to be there when their loved ones die. Now they made a decision to have that person cremated and some of them have been told that the earliest that can happen is the middle of June – because the downstate crematoriums are so backed up,” Sloane said.

Funeral homes in the New York City area have coordinated the shipping of bodies to Woodlawn’s Crematorium, where they have been cremated in a timely way and the remains shipped back downstate via mail.