Los Angeles lifts air-quality limits for cremations amid a backlog of bodies caused by COVID-19


A California air quality agency has temporarily suspended limits on how many bodies can be cremated amid a lack of storage space for those who died from the novel coronavirus.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) issued an emergency order on Sunday that temporarily suspends permit requirements for crematoriums for at least the next 10 days in Los Angeles County.

The air pollution agency limits the number of human remains that may be cremated each month, based on potential air quality impacts. However, the pandemic has caused the current death rate to skyrocket, placing a strain on hospitals, funeral homes, and crematoriums.

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National Guard members assist with processing COVID-19 deaths and placing them into temporary storage at the medical examiner-coroner’s office in Los Angeles on Jan. 12, 2021.  (Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner via AP, File)

“The current rate of death is more than double that of pre-pandemic years, leading to hospitals, funeral homes, and crematoriums exceeding capacity without the ability to process the backlog of cases,” South Coast AQMD said in a release.

The order came at the request of the L.A. County coroner’s office and the L.A. County Department of Public Health “to protect public health and to respond to the current emergency.”

As of Jan. 15, more than 2,700 bodies were being stored at local area hospitals and the coroner’s office in L.A. County, according to the order. 

Refrigerated trucks and members of the National Guard were recently sent to the county to help the coroner handle the temporary storage, KTLA reported.

Meanwhile, a report released last week by Los Angeles County Health Services said an estimated one in three people in Los Angeles have been infected with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

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Earlier this month, health officials said that a person was dying every eight minutes from the virus in L.A. County. 

The emergency order lifting the limits noted that the coroner anticipates another surge as a result of the New Year’s holiday, “since deaths tend to occur 4-6 weeks after gatherings.”

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As of early Tuesday, Los Angeles County has reported more than 1,024,190 confirmed coronavirus cases and at least 13,936 deaths from the virus. There are 7,328 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 23% of whom are in the ICU, according to the latest numbers in the county.

Fox News’ Madeline Farber contributed to this report



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