Over 300 Coronavirus Cases Shut Down Los Angeles Apparel Factory

Written by on July 16, 2020

The company’s chief executive, Dov Charney, had staged a professional comeback by making masks. Four workers have died from the virus.

In mid-March, as the coronavirus raged across New York, Washington State, California and New Jersey, and the crisis in personal protection equipment shortages grew, Dov Charney of Los Angeles Apparel was one of the first clothing retailers to step into the void.

In reopening his Los Angeles factory to produce face masks, Mr. Charney, the former chief executive of American Apparel who was ousted amid allegations of misuse of funds and knowingly allowing sexual harassment, was transformed from industry pariah to champion.

Los Angeles Apparel, his new company, was deemed an essential business. The federal government became a client, Mr. Charney said. The long road to redemption seemed, suddenly, much shorter.

But on July 10, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health ordered Mr. Charney’s manufacturing facility to close: An investigation found over 300 confirmed infections among the garment workers, and four deaths. Three of the deaths were in June, and one in July.

In a news release detailing the closure, the health department cited “flagrant violations of mandatory public health infection control orders” and failure “to cooperate with DPH’s investigation of a reported COVID-19 outbreak.”

This is one of the first forced closures of a factory in Los Angeles because of coronavirus-related outbreaks, according to Jan King, the regional health officer for South and West Los Angeles. Though the health department conducts numerous investigations, they are usually resolved through action with the companies involved.

“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,” said Barbara Ferrer, the director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, in a statement about the closure, which contained a timeline of the investigation.

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