Los Angeles

LA-Area Construction Workers Remain on the Job, Potentially Spreading COVID-19

Mayor warns of crackdown if workers don't take precautions.

NBC Universal, Inc.

While most Californians have been ordered to stay home, thousands of construction workers who have been deemed "essential" remain on the job and are often practicing no physical distancing, the NBC4 I-Team has learned.

At least one worker, possibly two, on the new home of the NFL--SoFi Stadium in Inglewood--tested positive for the coronavirus.

The I-Team visited a dozen commercial and residential construction sites in the Los Angeles-area Tuesday and, at every one, found workers laboring within a foot or two of each other.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti has said repeatedly in his daily briefings that construction workers can continue working but must follow established social distancing guidelines.

"I will give a warning to anybody doing these improvements, six feet or we'll shut you down," Garcetti said in a March 29 press conference. The mayor repeated his warning Tuesday.

At a Hollywood apartment building under construction just off Vine Street, the I-Team documented six workers side by side, with most not wearing protective masks.

"Some people don't understand [Covid-19] is really dangerous," said Guillermo, a supervisor on the site.

He added that his workers would like to have protective masks, but they're unable to find them.

"There's no masks. You go to Home Depot; there are no dust masks to buy," Guillermo said.

Another big coronavirus concern with construction sites are the food trucks that show up at lunchtime to sell food to workers, who often eat side by side.

 The union representing  California's construction trades, the State Building and Construction Trades Council, last week  issued a directive to its members that "Workers should consider bringing a lunch made at  home....stay away from congested lunch trucks."

But at one construction site in downtown LA's Historic Core, the I-Team documented a dozen workers eating lunch next to each other, with only about a foot of distance between them.

"So when I see people congregating, it just send off alarm bells that there may be more potential [COVID-19] exposure for other people that are the most vulnerable," said Blair Besten, head of the Historic Core's Business Improvement District.

Cities like Boston have now temporarily halted all construction projects except emergency work approved by the city to control the spread of coronavirus.

Garcetti said the city will begin to monitor construction sites this week, to make sure crews follow social distancing precautions.

"We will have inspectors who will be going out to work sites," the LA mayor said.

Garcetti also said Tuesday that all construction sites will now be required to develop plans for controlling COVID-19 exposure, for checking temperatures of worker, and for physical distancing of everyone on a site.

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