The LA County Department of Health is investigating reports of two COVID-19 deaths at a commercial food processing plant, one of three in the county that were allowed to resume operations after it closed this week for not reporting coronavirus outbreaks, officials said Thursday.
The deaths were reported by Mission Foods Corp., whose 49 employees were positive about the virus, LA county health official Muntu Davis said at a briefing on Thursday.
The Department of Health said one of the victims was a resident of the LA district and the other lived outside the department’s jurisdiction.
Jose Roberto Alvarez, 67, the facility’s maintenance manager, died of COVID-19 last week and is thought to have contracted the coronavirus at his commercial workplace, says his daughter Alisha Alvarez, who said her family learned of the outbreak at the facility through the media rather than from her father’s employer.
Mission Foods has issued a statement saying it is implementing safety measures that “exceed the requirements of health authorities,” including the legalization of face masks and social isolation, the installation of plexiglass barriers, and restrictions on the use of common areas.
“We have worked hard to keep our staff informed of the pandemic that began in early March,” said Paul de la O, regional director of production at Mission Foods.
The other two food businesses that were ordered to close on Sunday are S&S Foods in Azusa and Golden State Foods Corp. in the Industrial City, which had 60 and 47 cases of coronavirus, respectively.
“For all three outbreaks, the employer did not report it to the Department of Public Health when three positive cases were identified among the employees,” Davis said, explaining that the department learned of the outbreaks from an anonymous complaint line.
The complaints line receives about 2,000 to 3,000 complaints a week, and the department is currently investigating more than 1,000 coronavirus outbreaks in the county, Davis says.
In a press release, Golden State Foods said it reported its COVID-19 cases to the “appropriate authorities”, but said the LA County Department of Public Health did not notify producers of its notification requirements.
“It was only a matter of procedure for reporting, and LA County Department of Public Health officials were left satisfied with the GSF’s comprehensive preventive, operational COVID-19 protocols. GSF complied with all other state, federal, and international reporting requirements; The only exception in July was the LA district, “the report said.
Responding to questions about what the manufacturers violated, Davis said, “The fact that they came up with anonymous advice means they violated the protocols.”
The LA Times reports on the department’s requirement to report when there are three known cases, starting at least June 11th.
“It’s part of the protocols, it’s important not only to have what you need on-site, but also to follow reports when needed so we can help make recommendations and ensure the rest of employees are safe as soon as they’re identified in the workplace.” he said.
The health official said all three offices were allowed to reopen this week after they provided the department with the information needed to assess and guide their response, and they will all continue to conduct unannounced inspections to ensure compliance with the protocols.
“Business is responsible for corporate and moral and social responsibility to its employees and employee families to create a safe work environment,” he said.
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