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So Many People Are Dying Of COVID-19 In LA They've Had To Suspend Cremation Limits

As of Jan. 15, there are more than 2,700 bodies being stored at Los Angeles hospitals and the Coroner's Office.

Posted on January 18, 2021, at 2:26 p.m. ET

LA County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner via AP

Elizabeth "Liz" Napoles (right) works alongside National Guard members helping to place the bodies of those who died from COVID-19 into temporary storage at the LA County Medical Examiner-Coroner's Office, Jan. 12.

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Los Angeles County officials have temporarily lifted environmental limits on the number of cremations allowed to accommodate the growing backlog of deaths due to COVID-19.

Permits for crematoriums contain limits on the number of human remains that may be cremated each month "based on potential air quality impacts," the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) said in a press release Sunday. But as a result of the coronavirus, the current death rate in the region is double what it was before the pandemic, resulting in a large backlog of bodies at hospitals, funeral homes, and crematoriums.

Following requests from the county coroner and health department, the AQMD issued an order suspending the limits on cremations.

According to the order, as of Jan. 15, there are more than 2,700 bodies being stored at hospitals and the Coroner's Office, and the 28 crematories in the county have the resources to perform more cremations without the regulatory limits.

The latest surge of the virus has been devastating to the Los Angeles area. To date, more than 1 million have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to LA Public Health, and nearly 14,000 people have died.

Earlier this month in Los Angeles, hospitals were running dangerously low on oxygen and other supplies, with some critically ill patients having to wait up to eight hours in ambulances before getting into emergency rooms.

The cremation order is in place for 10 days but may be extended as, according to the order, the coroner "anticipates that another surge is approaching as a result of the New Year’s holiday, since deaths tend to occur 4-6 weeks after gatherings, and
the capacity of the decedent management system, including hospitals, funeral homes, crematoria and the Coroner’s office is being exceeded."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.