Insisting that compliance with health orders and infection-control measures will slow the spread of the coronavirus, Los Angeles County's public health director said Monday three more local businesses had to be shuttered due to large-scale outbreaks and failure to comply with operating protocols.
"They had significant outbreaks among their employees,'' Barbara Ferrer said, noting that all three had 40-plus COVID-19 cases and hadn't notified the county as required.
Golden State Foods Corp. in Industry had 43 confirmed cases of the virus, according to Ferrer and the county's website. S&S Foods in Azusa had 58 cases. Ferrer said the third company was a Mission Foods facility, but its location and number of cases were not immediately posted online.
News of the shutdowns came just days after county officials confirmed that Los Angeles Apparel, site of the county's worst COVID-19 outbreak -- with four deaths and about 375 confirmed cases -- had been allowed to reopen its clothing factory after making changes in training and infection-control measures.
It also came as Ferrer made a renewed call for regional cooperation and commitment among residents and business owners to slow the spread of the virus and avoid a return to more dramatic stay-at-home orders.
"I've said before that additional rollbacks or closures must remain on the table," Ferrer said. "But at this stage in the pandemic, we believe we have a lot of tools available that if fully utilized should allow us to slow the spread without going back to the more stringent Safer-At-Home orders that were in place earlier in the pandemic."
How Coronavirus Has Grown in Each State — in 1 Chart
This chart shows the cumulative number of cases per state by number of days since the 50th case.
Source: The COVID Tracking Project
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC
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The county had earlier promoted avoidance of "three C's": crowded places, confined spaces and close contact with others. On Monday, Ferrer rolled out another "three C's'': compliance, containment and collaboration, all aimed at urging adherence to control measures such as wearing face coverings and physical distancing, along with stepped up testing and cooperation with contact tracers and working collaboratively across all sectors of government and business sectors.
"Our businesses and our employers must also do their part, and they're required to alert us to any outbreaks at their work sites,'' Ferrer said. "Employers remain key to ensuring that we can move forward in our recovery journey."
Ferrer confirmed another 17 deaths due to the virus, bringing the total to 4,375.
She also announced 2,039 new cases, lifting the countywide total since the start of the pandemic to 176,028.
Ferrer noted that -- as has been the case the last few days -- the case numbers may be lower than expected due to an issue with statistical reporting by the state.
She also again stressed that younger residents are driving the recent increase in cases, noting that since May, the majority of new cases have occurred in people aged 18-49. She said the 18-to-29 age group "is accounting for a sharply increasing percentage of cases," while "all the other age groups are either flat or decreasing slightly."
It's that younger group that can be increasingly difficult to reach, with officials noting in recent weeks that younger residents are more likely to be gathering in groups, holding parties or generally believing they are not vulnerable to the virus.
Ferrer has repeatedly warned that while young people may not be in danger of falling dramatically ill due to the virus, they can easily spread it to people who are.
She conceded some frustration among some residents at the changing nature of health restrictions as the pandemic has progressed, but said adjustments were made as more was learned about the new virus, and more changes are possible in the future.
"I'm the first one to admit, you know, how wrong we were when we thought there wasn't a lot of asymptomatic spread, and how wrong we were when we didn't think that masking up, wearing cloth face coverings, was going to afford a lot of protection,'' she said. ``As we move through, I keep top of mind as we continue to learn more about this virus we have to make other adjustments in the future, and that's just the path that we're on.
``... Right now we're laser-focused on making sure that people understand that we have some tools at hand that allow us to slow the spread. We also know now without a doubt that wearing face coverings really helps protect other people and may in fact protect the wearer.
" ... We've learned. The science is catching up to being able to help us as we produce directives and guidance and as we move forward, we have to take every opportunity to take whatever tools we have right now. Use them to our full capacity to slow the spread. There will be more tools in the future and that will change what we're able to do or not able to do. I am hopeful around changes that will happen around testing ... and I'm very hopeful about there being therapeutics and a vaccine.''
Golden State Foods issued the following statement in response to Monday's news conference.
"Golden State Foods (GSF) takes seriously the critical requirements of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, GSF has been closely following local, state, federal and international requirements, including CDC guidelines, to ensure the safety of our number one asset, our people. The health and safety of our associates remains of utmost importance to us as we navigate these challenging times.
"Last week, we became aware of the LA County Department of Public Health’s new reporting requirement, which began on July 14, and we’ve been cooperating with its public health officials to demonstrate the efficacy of our ongoing safe practices, including close contact quarantine and contact tracing, throughout all our locations within the county. The July 26 order was rescinded on July 27, which enabled us to reopen our facility, and we have resumed operations in compliance with the new guidelines.
"The number of our associates affected by the coronavirus cited in the July 27 press conference occurred over the course of the past month, and many have already passed their 14-day quarantine stage and will safely return to work. We remain committed to the CDC, OSHA and LA County Department of Public Health guidelines to ensure the safety of all our associates, and to best serve our valued customers around the world. "