Los Angeles Apparel Remains Shut Down After 300 COVID-19 Cases and 4 Deaths
On June 27, Los Angeles Apparel, the company started by American Apparel founder and former CEO Dov Charney, shut down after more than 100 employees tested positive for COVID-19. In response, Charney hoped that the company could ramp up testing and safety measures to get back up and running as soon as possible.
That now appears unlikely, as Los Angeles County officials have ordered the business to remain shut down after more than 300 employees have tested positive and four have died.
“The death of four dedicated garment workers is heartbreaking and tragic,” Los Angeles County public health director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement, according to NBC Los Angeles. “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.”
County officials started investigating Los Angeles Apparel on June 19, after three workers from the plant died and a “concerned health care provider” tipped off authorities.
The county health authorities asked Los Angeles Apparel for a list of its employees to run against testing results, but the company didn’t provide it. Near the end of June, inspectors found that the company was not adhering to social distancing requirements and other health protocols, such as using cardboard as a barrier between workers rather than more substantial plexiglass.
On July 4, after it had been shut down, Los Angeles Apparel reportedly turned over an “incomplete list” of employees. At that point, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases was 198, but as of last week that number has risen to more than 300.
JUST IN: Los Angeles Apparel's downtown factory remains under a close order by the county health department after more than 300 employees tested positive for COVID-19 and four died from the illness https://t.co/IKZENRXZts
— CBS Los Angeles (@CBSLA) July 11, 2020
In our previous coverage, we quoted Charney saying that he wanted to “re-engineer” the working space and get every employee tested as quickly as possible to end the shutdown. Los Angeles Apparel had also been one of the original companies that used its manufacturing capabilities to make face masks during the beginning of the pandemic in the U.S.
“We believe that at all times—since the launch of the epidemic—we’ve been doing our best in doing social distancing and following every directive we’re aware of,” Charney told the Los Angeles Times. “We’re dealing with a massive epidemic that has risen astronomically in our community, in South LA, and it’s manifested itself in our factory.”
The NBC Los Angeles’ report, however, points to Charney and Los Angeles Apparel attempting to skirt the rules. NBC reported that the company reopened its factory after being closed in June with new employees, and “company officials tried to prevent health inspectors from entering the facility.”
“With so many workers who are sick, with four deaths, with thwarted efforts, things need to be cleaned up and corrected there,” Marissa Nuncio, director of the Garment Worker Center, told the Los Angeles Times. “It makes sense to us that DPH would take this action. Clearly not enough is being done to protect workers.”