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Backlog of bodies caused by COVID-19 forces California air quality agency to suspend cremation limits

California battling COVID variant as cases surge
California battling COVID variant as cases surge 02:11

The lack of storage space for those who have died of the coronavirus forced the agency which regulates air quality across the Southland to issue an emergency order Sunday night lifting the limit on the number of cremations allowed. The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued the emergency order temporarily suspending permit requirements for crematoriums.

CBS Los Angeles reports the order was issued at the request of both the Los Angeles County coroner's office and the L.A. County Department of Public Health.

The air quality management district limits the number of cremations which can be conducted each month due to air quality regulations. However, the pandemic has caused the death rate across the region to more than double, which has put a strain on hospitals, funeral homes and crematoriums, the agency reported.

As of Jan. 15, more than 2,700 bodies are stored at both hospitals and the coroner's office, according to the order. "Mobile mortuaries" have already been set up outside hospitals in Los Angeles County, where a person dies of coronavirus every eight minutes, the county said last week on Twitter

Virus Outbreak California
This January 12, 2021, file photo provided by the LA County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner shows National Guard members assisting with processing COVID-19 deaths and placing them into temporary storage at the LA County Medical Examiner-Coroner Office in Los Angeles.  AP

"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," AQMD said in a news release Sunday. "The LA County Medical-Examiner Coroner and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health have requested that South Coast AQMD suspend limits on cremations in order to protect public health and to respond to the current emergency."

The order will be in effect for at least 10 days.

Through Sunday, LA County has reported 1,014,662 coronavirus cases and 13,848 deaths from the disease. According to the latest state numbers Monday, 7,328 people are hospitalized with the coronavirus in L.A. County. 23% of whom are in intensive care unit beds.

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