As death rate doubles during pandemic, cremation limits lifted in Los Angeles County

LOS ANGELES -- The death rate during the COVID-19 pandemic is so high in Los Angeles County that an emergency order has been issued lifting environmental limits on the number of cremations that can be performed every month.

The death rate in the region is double what it was before the pandemic, leading to a big backlog at hospitals, funeral homes and crematoriums, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

The AQMD is temporarily lifting environmental restrictions on cremations to help deal with the backlog of bodies waiting to be removed and cremated.

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

RELATED: Southern California ICU capacity drops to 0% as state reports 379 new deaths, shattering record

"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 said.

Los Angeles County has reported 13,848 deaths since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, including an additional 108 deaths reported on Sunday. The county has reported more than 1 million cases overall.

Funeral homes and cemeteries report having to turn families away because of how many funerals they are conducting.

Even Rose Hills Memorial Park and Mortuary in Whittier - the nation's largest cemetery - says it has trouble handling the demand.

The 2,500-acre cemetery has seen its daily call volume double and the burial process is now taking at least a month, when normally it would be 5-7 days. Some families report waiting for hours simply to reach someone at the cemetery.

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