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Air Quality Management Suspends Limit on Cremations Amid ‘Backlog’ from COVID-19

A van parked at the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner. | Photo courtesy of L.A. County Medical Examiner-Coroner

So many Los Angeles County residents have died of COVID-19 that on Sunday the South Coast Air Quality Management District temporarily suspended limits on the number of cremations “or amount of human remains cremated.”

The move comes as the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner confirms an “urgent” need for more cremations to deal with the increased demand resulting from deaths due to COVID-19. The coroner’s office has “determined that the current rate of deaths in Los Angeles County is more than double that of pre-pandemic years and anticipates another approaching surge from the New Year’s holiday, since deaths tend to occur four to six weeks after gatherings,” the air pollution control agency said Sunday.

Hospitals, funeral homes, crematoria and the coroner’s office have exceeded capacity. As of Jan. 15, over 2,700 bodies are stored at hospitals and the coroner’s office and the 28 crematories in the county can perform more cremations but had not done so due to regulations.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health also requested a suspension on the monthly limit after confirming that the growing backlog of cremation cases “constitutes a threat to public health.”

The order will be in effect at least until Jan. 27 at 11:59 p.m.

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