Amid surge in COVID-19 deaths, officials temporarily lift limits on number of bodies cremated in L.A. County

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In this Jan. 12, 2021, file photo, provided by the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner, Elizabeth "Liz" Napoles, right, works alongside with National Guardsmen who are helping to process the COVID-19 decedents to be placed into temporary storage at the coroner's office in Los Angeles. (via Associated Press)

In this Jan. 12, 2021, file photo, provided by the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner, Elizabeth “Liz” Napoles, right, works alongside with National Guardsmen who are helping to process the COVID-19 decedents to be placed into temporary storage at the coroner’s office in Los Angeles. (via Associated Press)

With mortuaries and hospital morgues filling up amid a surge in COVID-19 deaths in Los Angeles County, air pollution control officials are temporarily suspending limits on how many bodies can be cremated.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District on Sunday issued an emergency order that lifts the restrictions on crematoriums for at least the next 10 days, saying it’s meant to help with the backlog of bodies created by the pandemic.

“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 officials said in a news release.

The air pollution control agency limits the number of human remains that may be cremated each month to protect the region’s air quality.

Officials said the order comes in response from the L.A. County coroner’s office and the health department.

L.A. County had several consecutive days with more than 200 COVID-19 deaths daily.

Refrigerated trucks and members of the National Guard were sent to L.A. County to help the coroner with the temporary storage of bodies.

“Our community is bearing the brunt of the winter surge, experiencing huge numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths, five-times what we experienced over the summer,” L.A. County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer said in a Saturday statement.

L.A. County reported 11,366 new coronavirus cases and another 108 deaths attributed to COVID-19 Sunday, bringing the countywide total to 1,014,662 infections with 13,848 deaths.

There were 7,498 people hospitalized with COVID-19 across the county, 23% of them in intensive care units.

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