LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced Friday that it was ordering the continued closure of Los Angeles Apparel’s South L.A. facility after a coronavirus outbreak.
According to the department, more than 300 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and four died from the virus — three in early June and one in early July.
“The death of four dedicated garment workers is heartbreaking and tragic,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, county public health director, said. “Business owners and operators have a corporate, moral and social responsibility to their employees and their families to provide a safe work environment that adheres to all of the health officer directives — this responsibility is important, now more than ever, as we continue to fight this deadly virus.”
Thursday’s order mandated the continued closure of the facility and followed a series of actions intended to get the company to adhere to local health orders, the department said.
The garment manufacturer was originally shut down June 27 after the department said it found “flagrant violations” of mandatory public health infection control orders — including using cardboard as barriers between workers who were not properly distanced — and the company failed to cooperate with an investigation into a reported outbreak.
The company was also provided with detailed instructions on the steps needed in order to re-open the plant, the department said.
On July 7, the department said employees who tested positive on or before June 26 could return to work — when the facility was allowed to reopen — only if they had been fever-free for three days without the use of fever-reducing medicines and all other symptoms had been resolved.
The health department said the company then reopened with new employees, in violation of the closure order, and attempted to prevent health department workers from entering the factory — leading to Thursday’s order.
“Our paramount concern is for the safety of all employees and their families, and the department will continue to actively monitor Los Angeles Apparel and other manufacturing work sites to fully implement the infection control and distancing safety requirements at work environment for all employees,” Ferrer said. “Our department is moving to accelerate our response to these situations, and we need the full cooperation of the business community to do so.”
The department said it was enhancing its ongoing, unannounced inspection process to ensure compliance with all applicable laws, including compliance with COVID-19 protocols.
Health officials also reminded employers that they are required to report if there are three or more cases of COVID-19 confirmed at their worksite.
Employees who experience unsafe work conditions were encouraged to call 888-700-9995. Reports can be made anonymously and workers will not ask for any personal information, including immigration status.
“It’s heartbreaking to hear of worker deaths at Los Angeles Apparel. We hope this raises awareness of the urgent need to protect workers, and that workers know they have rights,” said Marissa Nuncio, Director of the Garment Worker Center. “We’re encouraging workers to call the Department of Public Health’s hotline to report unsafe conditions, and letting workers know that we are here as a resource to help them find solutions for their well-being during the pandemic.”