Cremation backlog prompts air-quality rules to be temporarily suspended in Southern California

California

Coffins containing deceased people wait in the worship room of the crematorium in Meissen, Germany, before cremation on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. For those who died with the coronavirus, the coffins are marked with the word “COVID” as a warning. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

April 05 2021 05:30 pm

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California on Monday became the first state to record more than 3 million known coronavirus infections. The death rate from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County works out to about one person every six minutes.

It comes as the South Coast Air Quality Management District suspended some pollution-control limits on the number of cremations for at least 10 days on Sunday, in order to deal with a backlog of bodies at hospitals and funeral homes.

“The current rate of death is more than double that of pre-pandemic years,” the agency said.

Adding to concerns, California is experiencing new, possibly more transmissible forms of COVID-19.

The state health department announced Sunday that an L452R variant of the virus is increasingly showing up in genetic sequencing of COVID-19 test samples from several counties.

The variant was first identified last year in California and in other states and countries but has been identified more frequently since November and in several large outbreaks in Northern California’s Santa Clara County, the department said.

Overall, the variant has been found in at least a dozen counties. In some places, testing has found the variant in a quarter of the samples sequenced, said Dr. Charles Chiu, a virologist and professor of laboratory medicine at the University of California San Francisco.

However, not all test samples receive genetic sequencing to identify variants so its frequency wasn’t immediately clear.

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