As death rate doubles during COVID-19 pandemic, cremation limits lifted in Los Angeles County

LOS ANGELES (KABC) – Death rate during COVID-19 pandemic is so high in Los Angeles County that an emergency order has been issued to lift environmental limits on the number of cremations that can be performed each month.

The death rate in the region is double what it was before the pandemic, leading to a large backlog in 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 Examining Coroner and the county’s Department of Public Health.

RELATED: Los Angeles County Passes 1 Million Coronavirus Cases

“The current death rate is more than double that of pre-pandemic years, leading to hospitals, funeral homes and crematoriums exceeding capacity without the capacity to deal with the backlog of cases,” said AQMD.

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

Funeral homes and cemeteries say they have to turn away families because of the number of funerals they organize.

Even Whittier’s Rose Hills Memorial Park and Mortuary – the nation’s largest cemetery – says it is struggling to keep up with demand.

The 2,500-acre cemetery has seen its daily call volume double, and the burial process now takes at least a month, when it would normally last 5-7 days. Some families say they waited hours just to join someone at the cemetery.

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