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Los Angeles buries unclaimed bodies from COVID pandemic

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“These individuals may be homeless or have no next of kin,” US officials said.


Almost 2,000 people who died during the first year of the COVID pandemic and whose bodies were never claimed were laid to rest in Los Angeles on Thursday.

The cremated remains were put in a communal grave in a ceremony attended by religious and political leaders, as well as several dozen members of the public.

“In 2020 sadly 1,937 residents passed away without a next of kin coming forward to claim their remains. And it is those lives that we honour… today,” said LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis.

“We know the desperate impact that COVID-19 had on our most vulnerable communities.

“In the county, the life of every resident… is very important to us, regardless of who [they] were, where they came from, where they lived, who they loved and how they passed.”

Los Angeles was among the worst affected parts of the US by the pandemic, with around 3.7 million cases in the three years to March 2023, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The county recorded more than 35,000 deaths in that period, the university’s data shows.

Thursday’s ceremony was carried out by the US Office of Decedent Affairs, which says it “manages cremation and burial for indigent/unclaimed individuals who die within the County of Los Angeles jurisdiction.”

“These individuals may be homeless or have no next of kin. A three-year waiting period between the year of death and burial allows family members to claim cremated remains,” it detailed. 

The ceremony for those who died in 2019 – before the outbreak of the pandemic – interred the remains of more than 1,600 people.

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