On Friday, the clothing manufacturer was ordered to stay closed by public health officials after four employees died from the virus-related causes in early June and early July. This is one of the largest workplace outbreaks reported in the US so far.
This latest closure follows a June 27 order by authorities after they found "flagrant violations of mandatory public health infection control orders." According to the Los Angeles Times, during a site visit conducted in June, inspectors found multiple violations of infection control protocols and social distancing requirements, which included the use of cardboard barriers between workers.
However, the plant reopened as an essential business to make face masks, though officials contend that Charney violated the original closure by reopening with new workers. They also stated that the brand failed to cooperate with their investigation into the outbreak by failing to provide a full list of employees to compare testing results.
In a statement about the closure, LA County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer explained that business owners have a responsibility to keep workers safe "as we continue to fight this deadly virus."
"The death of four dedicated garment workers is heartbreaking and tragic," Ferrer added. "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."
As for Charney, he told the outlet that communications with officials have been "a maze of conflicting directions" and pushed back on "outrageous" claims of employee negligence, claiming that Los Angeles Apparel has helped all workers get tested several times. He also claimed that outbreak numbers were a reflection of higher infection rates amongst POC communities.
"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 said. "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."
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