By CBSLA Staff

RIVERSIDE (CBSLA) — The South Coast Air Quality Management District Wednesday granted a temporary waiver to allow crematoriums throughout Riverside County to conduct operations without regard to daily emission caps as a result of the coronavirus surge.

People stand outside the emergency room at Riverside Community Hospital on Dec. 17, 2020. Officials say the county appears to have hit its peak in hospitalizations in the second week of January. (Photo by: Bing Guan/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

County Emergency Management Department Director Bruce Barton told the Riverside County Board of Supervisors last month that some hospitals’ morgues were unable to meet storage needs, prompting the county to order refrigerated trailers for temporary holding of remains until they could be transferred.

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Due to that backlog, the county coroner’s office and the health department to request a temporary suspension of limits on the number of cremations allowed daily.

Since the request was made though, Barton said COVID-related strains on medical resources had started to ease as overall COVID-19 hospitalizations continued to trend downward, though intensive care units remained full.

As of Tuesday, there were 920 COVID-19 patients hospitalized, 245 of whom were being treated in ICUs. Barton said that the county appears to have hit its peak in hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the second week of January.

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The county reported 793 newly confirmed coronavirus cases and 27 deaths, bringing countywide totals to 277,724 cases and 3,278 deaths. Of those who contracted the virus, 223,389 had recovered.

On the vaccination front, Riverside University Health System data show the county has received 224,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses, of which roughly 87% have been administered.

“We know call center wait times have been long,” RUHS Dr. Geoffrey Leung said. “We’re increasing staff and improving out technology platform to make scheduling easier.”

As for the temporary waiver on cremations, AQMD officials said it would remain in effect until at least Feb. 13. The regulatory agency previously granted waivers to Los Angeles and Orange counties.

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(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)