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Los Angeles Apparel's factory shut after 300 workers contract coronavirus

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Clothing maker Los Angeles Apparel is under orders to stay closed following an outbreak of the coronavirus that public health officials say killed four of the garment manufacturer's workers and infected more than 300 others.

The closure order last Friday comes as California battles a new wave of infections, with Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday announcing statewide closures of restaurants, bars, movie theaters, museums and other establishments that host patrons indoors. 

Public health officials said they initially shut down operations at the Los Angeles factory owned by Dov Charney on June 27 after finding what they called "flagrant violations of mandatory public health infection control orders." 

The clothing maker, which had reopened as an essential business in order to make face masks, also failed to cooperate as health officials investigated reports of an outbreak, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Dov Charney, who started Los Angeles Apparel after being forced out of the American Apparel clothing chain he had founded. American Apparel via Getty Images

A medical worker on June 19 notified the regulator of a possible outbreak at the plant, with three workers dying of COVID-19 in June and another in early July, the city's health department said.

"The death of four dedicated garment workers is heartbreaking and tragic," Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said in a statement. "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."

Inspectors found multiple violations of social distancing and other rules at the plant, including the use of cardboard as a barrier between workers, according to public health officials. Charney then violated the original closure order by reopening his plant with new workers, they contend.

Charney, who started Los Angeles Apparel in 2016 after losing control of the American Apparel clothing brand he had founded years earlier, could not immediately be reached for comment. However, he described the announcement of the closure as "media theatrics" in an interview with the New York Times, calling the health department's statement "not truthful."

LA Apparel's factory in downtown Los Angeles remains closed after the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said more than 300 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and four died from the virus. KCBS

Charney's plant had been cranking out hundreds of thousands of face masks each week, he told CBS MoneyWatch in March, explaining that when his factory staff couldn't get a hold of surgical masks, "We started making our own."

The founder and former chief executive of American Apparel was ousted from that role in 2014 amid allegations he misused funds and knowingly allowed sexual harassment.

According to John Hopkins University, 3,809 people have died of COVID-19 in Los Angeles, where a total of 133,549 cases have been confirmed.

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