The Los Angeles Apparel had three deaths in June and one in July, which led to an investigation, the Los Angeles County Department of Health said in a statement.
“The death of four dedicated textile workers is heartbreaking and tragic,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer from the Los Angeles County Department of Health. “Entrepreneurs and operators have an entrepreneurial, moral and social responsibility towards their employees and their families in order to create a safe working environment.”
Los Angeles Apparel was founded in 2016 by Dov Charney, who previously founded American Apparel. It was closed for the first time on June 27 after violating the county’s mandatory health regulations. The company did not cooperate with the Department of Health̵
On June 19, an affected healthcare provider informed the county health authorities of a possible outbreak in the clothing factory. The health agency announced that despite multiple requests for a list of all employees, Los Angeles Apparel had not provided it, and reported 151 cases this week.
The list was a “crucial tool” that the Health Department needed to compare it with the test results and determine the extent of the outbreak. “It allows DPH to track employees based on DPH’s list of confirmed positive or negative Covid-19 people received from test laboratories,” said the health agency.
When inspectors visited the factory on June 26, they found several violations of physical distance requirements and infection control protocols, including the use of cardboard as a barrier between workers, the health agency said.
Los Angeles Apparel received detailed instructions on the steps that had to be taken to reopen it.
On July 4, the health department received an incomplete list of all employees of the company with 198 positive results. The health agency then used this list to compare it with the results of the laboratories and found that on July 10 there were more than 300 positive cases at the site.
While the county health ministry sent a letter to the company saying that only employees who tested positive on or before June 26 could return to work if they had no symptoms, Los Angeles Apparel became involved reopened to new employees and violated the order of the health officer.
“Los Angeles Apparel must currently remain closed until it can be demonstrated that the facility fully meets public health requirements,” said the health agency.
In a phone interview with CNN on Friday night, Charney vehemently denied the Department of Health’s allegations that officials were operating “maliciously” and “looking for scapegoats” and suggested that the decision to close the factory was “political”.
Charney said the apparel manufacturer had set up cardboard barriers between workers to reduce the spread of the virus, but insisted that the company not be told that the material did not meet health requirements. Instead, he blamed health officials for what he described as a lack of clear instructions for employers to ensure worker safety and called it “bad practice on their part.”
And while the Los Angeles Health Department had instructed Apparel to leave only workers who had previously been tested and recovered positive, Charney said the company hired new workers when it reopened.
“Absolutely, we hired new people,” said Charney. “Which company cannot hire new employees? No one said not to hire new employees.”
Charney read a letter to CNN, which he received from the county health department, stating that only employees who had previously tested positive and showed no symptoms could return to the factory.
Charney also contested the claim that the company had attempted to prevent health officials from entering the factory for inspection, and said that they should only wait until the law firm’s local lawyer can arrive.
“We never said they couldn’t come in,” said Charney. “We never, never let them in.”
Charney said he was aware that some of the company’s employees were infected with the virus and died, although he suspected that employees elsewhere could have been exposed to the virus.
“A gentleman who has worked with me for 15, 20 years,” he said recently of the aftermath of Covid-19. “We’re all in tears. But I don’t know how he got it. His wife got it too. And if he got it here, it’s terrible, of course. But I can’t think that everyone just got it here got. “”
And while Charney blamed the county for a lack of testing and contact tracking, he said the company would work with officials to reopen the factory.
“Could I have done it differently? Of course I have some new ideas after 2020,” he said. “I would have arranged tests every week from the start. I would have fought for more tests earlier.”