As COVID-19 deaths surge, Los Angeles County lifts limit on number of cremations

SANTA MONICA, CA - DECEMBER 15: A patient surved a code blue and then was rushed to ICU to be intubated and be placed on a ventalator inside Providence Saint John's Health Center on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020 in Santa Monica, CA. They have expanded their

As the COVID-19 death rate in Los Angeles County continues to climb, county officials have issued an emergency order lifting environmental limits on the number of cremations that can be performed every month.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a statement Sunday, announcing the emergency order, which temporarily suspends certain permit conditions for crematories in the county to assist with the backlog caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 10-day exemption was granted following requests from the Los Angeles County Medical-Examiner Coroner and the county Department of Public Health.

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"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," the AQMD statement reads.

Permits for crematoriums contain limits on the number of human remains that can be cremated each month, based on the potential impact the cremations have on air quality.

The county coroner anticipates another surge in deaths as a result of the New Year's holiday, "since deaths tend to occur 4-6 weeks after gatherings," the AQMD said. As of January 15, over 2,700 bodies were currently being stored at hospitals across the county and the coroner’s office.

Cremation facilities are required to submit an email notice to the South Coast AQMD Emergency Relief Mailbox at if they intend to exceed permit limits. 

To date, Los Angeles County has attributed more than 13,848 fatalities to the coronavirus.

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