South L.A. clothing factory allowed to reopen after 300 employees test positive for COVID-19, 4 die

Los Angeles Apparel has responded following the announcement it was ordered to close after LA County health officials said more than 300 workers at its manufacturing facility tested COVID-19 positive and four died. Despite being devastated by the pandemic, it was allowed to reopen Monday. 

The company's South Los Angeles manufacturing complex on 59th Street was originally closed June 27 after inspectors found "flagrant" violations of infection-control protocols and the company "failed to cooperate" with the county's investigation of what were then about 150 total infections.

According to the county Department of Public Health, an official order was issued Thursday mandating the "continuous closure" of the facility.

Over the weekend, the company responded and called the report "lies."

On Instagram, Los Angeles Apparel issued a lengthy statement that read in part:

"Contrary to the Health Department’s official report, we provided the information on employee infection rates and positive/negative test results as soon as we could.

At no time did we withhold any data – the data that the Health Department requested sometimes took a few days to procure because it relied on us obtaining private information from employees, which we needed consent and confirmation for them to release.

In fact, prior to being contacted by the Health Department, we proactively approached their officers to alert them about the rates of infection amongst our employees, the vast of majority of whom are Latino.

We recognized that this was perhaps an indicator of a potentially large issue that wasn’t being addressed by the public sector."

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Los Angeles Apparel owner Dov Charney told FOX 11’s Bob DeCastro off-camera that the company followed all protocols and did not deny access to inspectors.

The owner admitted they did use cardboard to separate employees, saying he thought it was a good idea after reading a report that the virus only survives for 24 hours on cardboard.

The cardboard has since been removed and replaced with plexiglass, the owner said.

"The death of four dedicated garment workers is heartbreaking and tragic," public health director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement Friday. "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."

RELATED: Stay up to date on all coronavirus-related information

Public health officials said Friday three workers from the plant died in early June, and one more died this month. The agency began investigating conditions at the plant on June 19 after being notified by a "concerned healthcare provider."

According to the department, investigators asked the company for a list of all employees so it could be compared with testing results, but the company failed to provide it.

In late June, inspectors found violations at the facility of distancing requirements and infection-control protocols, according to the department, noting that the company was using cardboard as a barrier between workers.

On July 4, the company sent the department an "incomplete list" of employees, and by then 198 positive cases had been reported. But as of Friday, that number had risen to more than 300, according to the public health agency.

Health officials said that despite the company being ordered closed in late June, LA Apparel reopened the factory with new employees, and company officials tried to prevent health inspectors from entering the facility.

On Monday, Charney clarified that the company has been given the green light to reopen after retraining its employees. 

FOX 11's Kelli Johnson and Bob DeCastro contributed to this report.