Los Angeles buries its unclaimed COVID-year dead | Inquirer News

Los Angeles buries its unclaimed COVID-year dead

/ 10:32 AM December 15, 2023


White roses are layed as 1937 cremated ashes are buried during a cross denominational service for Board of Supervisors annual Burial of the Unclaimed Dead in Los Angeles, California December 14, 2023. Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, along with the Department of Health Services, Office of Decedent Affairs, and the Los Angeles General Medical Center Chaplains, preside over the burial of 1,937 decedents in a single communal grave to pay respects to individuals who passed away in 2020, amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by DAVID SWANSON / AFP)

Los Angeles, United States — 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 honor… 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.”

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Los Angeles was among the worst affected counties in the United States when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, 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 is an annual tradition in the county that has happened since 1896.

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It is carried out by the county’s 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.”

The ceremony for those who died in 2019 — before the outbreak of the pandemic — interred the remains of just over 1,600 people.

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