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Los Angeles County Lifts Cap on Cremation to Cope With Backlog of Corpses Amid COVID-19 Surge

© AP Photo / Steve Helbera funeral urn
a funeral urn - Sputnik International
The dire situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic in the United States has pushed funeral homes to their limits. Last month, a coffin manufacturer in east Los Angeles complained that he faced a shortage of wood amid the increase in demand for coffins.

An air quality agency has granted a temporary waiver on cremation in Los Angeles County. In a press release unveiled on 17 January, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which is in charge of monitoring pollution in multiple counties in the state of California, said it would lift the cap on cremation due to a backlog of bodies. It said 2,700 bodies are being stored in the county's hospitals and the coroner's office.

"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 agency said, adding that funeral homes, which plan to exceed cremation limits should file a notice citing capacity and temperature requirements.

The waiver was granted for 10 days (until 27 January) with an option to extend it because the county's coroner expects there will be a surge in deaths "as a result of the New Year's holiday since deaths tend to occur 4-6 weeks after gatherings".

The announcement coincided with the news that the total number of coronavirus infections in the Los Angeles County has reached a million, while the death toll stands at almost 14,000. A person dies from COVID-19 in the county every eight minutes, local officials said earlier this month.

"People who were otherwise leading healthy, productive lives are now passing away because of a chance encounter with the COVID-19 virus", LA County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday.

The health department said the new strain of coronavirus discovered in Britain is likely behind the surge of infections and urged residents to follow safety measures "more diligently".

The situation surrounding the coronavirus outbreak in Los Angeles County mirrors the overall picture in the United States. According to data from John Hopkins University, the country recorded 1.5 million cases in just a week. The total number of cases is 24 million, while the death toll is nearing 400,000.

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