As COVID-19 death rate climbs, cremation limits lifted in Riverside County

As the COVID-19 death rate in California continues to climb, officials have issued an emergency order lifting environmental limits on the number of cremations that can be performed every month in Riverside County.

The order also extended orders already in effect for Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has substantially increased the number of deaths in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside Counties compared to pre-pandemic years," the South Coast Air Quality Management District said in a statement Wednesday, announcing the emergency order, which temporarily suspends certain permit conditions for crematories in the county to assist with the backlog caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

RELATED: As COVID-19 deaths surge, Los Angeles County lifts limit on number of cremations

The 10-day exemption was granted following requests from each of the counties' coroner's office and health departments. Unless extended, the order will remain in effect until Saturday, Feb. 13.

"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.

Permits for crematoriums contain limits on the number of human remains that can be cremated each month, based on the potential impact the cremations have on air quality.

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Cremation facilities are required to submit an email notice to the South Coast AQMD Emergency Relief Mailbox at if they intend to exceed permit limits. 

California has reported 41,811 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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