With a death rate more than double that of pre-pandemic years, an air quality regulator on Sunday temporarily suspended its limit on cremations in Los Angeles County in order to get through a backlog of COVID-19 deaths.

Hospitals, funeral homes and crematoriums are exceeding capacity, the South Coast Air Quality Management District said. There are usually limits on the number of bodies that can be cremated due to air-quality concerns, but the restriction has been suspended for 10 days and can be extended.

The order also “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.” It says the backlog of cremation cases in the county “constitutes a threat to public health.”

It’s the latest hellish news coming from Los Angeles County and the state of California as the state fights a pandemic which has disproportionately harmed people of color.

Hospitals have declared internal disasters as they have run out of oxygen. Patients are being treated in gift shops and tents and are dying in corridors. Doctors are being forced to make heartbreaking decisions over rationing care.

Los Angeles County surpassed 1 million coronavirus cases on Saturday, with 13,741 deaths.

The county public health department also said that they had found the first confirmed case of the more infectious B117 variant, first identified in the U.K., in an individual who spent time in Los Angeles County but is now isolating in Oregon. The county believes the variant is already spreading through the community.

The state of California has so far administered 36.7% of the vaccines it has received, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker. The state is converting stadiums and even Disneyland’s lot into mass vaccination centers to speed up the rollout. 

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