3 food suppliers in California ordered to close after ‘significant’ virus outbreaks go unreported

Coronavirus

(KTLA) — Three food suppliers in California were ordered to close due to “significant” coronavirus outbreaks among their employees, officials said Monday.

S & S Foods in Azusa had a total of 58 employees test positive for the virus, Mission Foods Corp. in Commerce had 40 who tested positive, and Golden State Foods Corp. in the City of Industry had 43 employees with the virus.

Golden State Foods Corp. is one of the largest and longest-serving suppliers to McDonald’s, and Mission Foods is one of the most popular tortilla makers in the U.S.

“They have significant outbreaks amongst their employees, [and] we were not notified, as we’re required to be notified, once they had their three cases,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said during a Monday news conference. “Our inspector asked them to make some modifications to really enhance their infection control protocols at all three sites.”

Garment factories, meatpacking plants and food processing centers in Los Angeles County have recently experienced some of the worst coronavirus outbreaks.

Workplaces, food and retail stores and educational settings in the county have to report outbreaks to the Health Department after they’ve had at least three people test positive for the virus.

As of Monday, 245 such locations were listed on the department’s site for having at least three cases, with the largest outbreaks reported at the Smithfield meatpacking plant in Vernon, with 220 cases, and at Los Angeles Apparel with 384 cases.

Los Angeles Apparel had also been ordered to close its South L.A. garment factory June 27 after four employees died of COVID-19 and inspectors found “flagrant violations” of COVID-19 guidelines.

The Health Department allowed the factory to reopen last week after it complied with all the required mandates. That includes training employees on physically distancing, wearing face coverings and following enhanced cleaning regimens.

They also started screening employees for COVID-19 symptoms, something officials say they weren’t doing before.

“I want to be clear, though, they must continue to follow the mandated requirements,” L. A. County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said in announcing the reopening last week. “We’ll be monitoring them to ensure ongoing compliance. They’re required to report any new cases of COVID-19 to our department, and our inspectors will continue to conduct unannounced visits to ensure that infection control measures remain in place.”

Health inspectors visit businesses seven days a week, investigating more than 17,000 locations reported to the department since March for not complying with health officer orders meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

While most of the businesses under investigation either came into compliance or worked with inspectors to follow requirements, the Health Department had shut down 26 restaurants, one grocery store, one pool and 67 unregulated businesses, which includes three gyms, as of last week, according to Davis.

“Our No. 1 priority is protecting the health and well-being of the employees, and noncompliance with the reopening safer-at-work order may result in another shutdown,” Davis said.

L.A. County had recorded a total of 176,028 coronavirus cases and 4,375 deaths as of Monday.

All indoor operations must be closed at restaurants, houses of worship, gyms, fitness centers, museums, hair salons, barbershops and other personal care services.

Each sector allowed to open has to follow strict Health Department protocols amid the pandemic.

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