Los Angeles County on Thursday reported 59 more deaths of COVID-19 patients and 4,592 new cases — a single-day high in confirmed coronavirus infections.
With more than 147,468 cases of the virus, the county has entered what Health Director Barbara Ferrer described on Wednesday as an “alarming and dangerous phase” in the pandemic. A total of 3,988 people have died.
Garment factories, meatpacking plants and food processing centers are among the Los Angeles County employers experiencing the worst coronavirus outbreaks, according to health officials.
“This is common across the nation,” said Dr. Muntu Davis, the county’s health officer. “They are large employers with high numbers of low-wage workers, and they have workers who are spending long shifts together in close proximity and indoor spaces.”
The worst outbreak at a workplace locally is at Los Angeles Apparel, a manufacturer started by the founder of American Apparel, where four workers have died of the virus. In total, 375 of the shuttered South Los Angeles factory’s employees have tested positive for the virus, Davis said.
“This is the largest outbreak investigation that we have at this time,” Davis said.
It’s not clear when the factory will reopen.
Higher mortality rates among lower income communities, and Black and Latino residents have become a key point of concern amid record hospitalization rates. Health officials have said this could be tied to the fact that many individuals within these communities are essential workers.
“Oftentimes, people who are low-income cannot stay home to work,” Davis said. “And early in the pandemic, there were few protections offered at many worksites. There were no requirements for masking, and for physical distancing.”
According to Muntu, the Department of Public Health has received and responded to around 2,000 to 3,000 complaints a week about potentially unsafe work settings. The most common issue health inspectors come across is people not wearing face coverings or wearing them improperly he said. That includes placing a mask just below one’s nose or not covering their mouth.
Inspectors have carried out 52 investigations at restaurants with potentially unsafe conditions, where some violations include not disinfecting surfaces like doorknobs and tables, Davis said.