Los Angeles Apparel factory forced to shut down after reporting 300 Covid-19 cases
Dov Charney's Los Angeles Apparel factory has been shut down after health officials found that the facility has had more than 300 confirmed cases of Covid-19 among its employees.
In March, the Los Angeles-based business began producing face masks, allowing it to be deemed an essential business and continue operating throughout L.A.'s 'Safer at Home' order.
The announcement of the company's shift to PPE production was given by Charney, who previously founded American Apparel and was later fired in 2014 as a result of accusations of misconduct, including misuse of company funds and sexual harassment. He then went on to found Los Angeles Apparel in 2016. Charney told The New York Times that the company has produced over 10 million masks since the pandemic began, about 80% of which have gone to government agencies.
On July 10, a press statement from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) said that the Los Angeles Apparel factory's operations were first shut down on June 27, after an investigation of the premises found "flagrant violations of mandatory public health infection control orders," including the use of cardboard barriers between workers. The DPH also said it saw the company "[fail] to cooperate with DPH’s investigation of a reported Covid-19 outbreak."
On July 9, the DPH ordered the factory to close.
The DPH said it discovered over 300 confirmed cases of the virus among the garment workers and four deaths, three of which occurred in early June and one in early July.
“The death of four dedicated garment workers is heartbreaking and tragic,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the director of the DPH.
“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.
“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."
The DPH was first notified of a potential Covid-19 outbreak at the factory by an unnamed healthcare provider. The organization said it then requested a list of all employees from the company, and that the company "failed to provide the list after multiple requests."
In a video posted to Instagram on July 14, Charney said that "about 85%" of the product the company is making is "PPE-related," and that the factory has been implementing social distancing; having employees wear masks; sanitizing equipment between shifts; checking employees for Covid-19 symptoms; regularly testing employees; and "working with government agencies as best as we can to make sure that we take care of what we need to do."
In a phone call with the NYT, Charney said he didn't believe the DPH's announcement accurately represented "the point of view of the people I am working with at the department of health. Some of them have apologized to me. It’s not truthful.”
In a widely circulated statement, Charney continued: “In all fairness, it’s morally irresponsible for the Health Department to speak on the infection rates at our factory without also addressing its connection to the issue at large: that the Latino community in Los Angeles is left vulnerable to Covid-19 in a healthcare system that provides no support with testing and no support or assistance for those that test positive."
A majority of Los Angeles Apparel's workers are Latinx.
According to the NYT, Charney and the health department are now working together to "resolve the issues" and reopen the factory.
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