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A large chain retail pharmacy and a children’s clothing manufacturer in Boyle Heights are among non-residential settings with COVID-19 outbreaks reported by health authorities this week – as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the neighborhood.
The largest of those two local outbreaks is at the Walgreens Pharmacy at North Breed Street and César Chávez Avenue. As of Tuesday, Public Health data shows, 15 employees at the store had tested positive for COVID-19.
A Walgreens spokesperson said the Boyle Heights store was temporarily closed in June, to allow for cleaning and disinfecting of impacted areas. In a written statement, the company said it is “committed to providing a safe environment for our team members and customers.”
The other outbreak is at KWDZ Manufacturing, an apparel company at 337 S Anderson St. in Boyle Heights’ warehouse district. According to Public Health, eight employees at the manufacturer have tested positive.
A third Boyle Heights outbreak in a non-residential setting was reported at the County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner’s headquarters at 1104 N Mission Rd. There, four staff members have tested positive.
A separate outbreak, at Central Juvenile Hall, is listed among residential and acute care settings. Data shows that 18 residents and two staffers at the county juvenile facility at 1605 Eastlake Ave. have also tested positive.
HIGH RATE OF CASES IN BOYLE HEIGHTS
There are 1,768 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Boyle Heights, according to numbers released Wednesday by Public Health. Local cases have been on a steady rise since a coronavirus testing site opened in Boyle Heights in mid-April. The daily average of new cases for seven-day periods went from 19 the first week of June to 35 the week that ended on June 27.
Boyle Heights has more confirmed cases than any other neighborhood in the City of Los Angeles and the seventh highest case rate.
For weeks, county authorities have warned that the coronavirus is having its highest impact on poor communities of color – especially among those with high Latino populations. Boyle Heights is 94% Latino, according to Cenus figures.
There are more COVID-19 cases among Latinos than among any other ethnic or racial group in Los Angeles county. Among the reasons – experts say – Latinos are overrepresented among so-called “essential workers,” and many of these live in overcrowded conditions.
CASES TIED TO OUTBREAKS
Health officials have said that many of the cases in Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles – the adjacent neighborhood with the highest number of cases in unincorporated LA County – are tied to reported outbreaks in food processing plants in Vernon.
Less than 100 people live in that industrial city, and many of the workers at its plants live in the outlying communities.
The highest number of cases in Boyle Heights were reported in May, following a large outbreak at the Farmer John meat processing plant in Vernon. The highest daily number of cases in Boyle Heights – 65 – was reported on May 29.
For the last few weeks, Public Health has indicated that some of the Boyle Heights cases are “associated with correctional facility outbreaks located in the community.”
According to the L.A. County Probation Department, the majority of juveniles with COVID at its facilities have tested positive upon intake. The department’s most recent update indicates that 6% of the youth arriving at Central Juvenile Hall have tested positive since the practice of testing new arrivals began on May 3.
Probation says that youths who test positive are isolated from the general population and kept in isolation until cleared by Juvenile Court Health Services. Additionally, all youth in juvenile facilities are provided with masks and employees working with them receive personal protective equipment and infection control training from county health officials.
It’s unclear if any of the employees at Walgreens or KWDZ who tested positive have returned to work.
A statement received Thursday from a company spokesperson did not go into detail. The statement says, in part:
“Walgreens was notified that team members who work in our store located at 305 North Breed Street had confirmed cases of COVID-19 in June. When notified of a confirmed or presumed positive COVID-19 case, we take actions meeting or exceeding recommendations from the CDC, OSHA, public health officials and other credible sources while following federal, state and local health advisories. Our clinical and safety teams work closely with our field and store leadership to respond accordingly, which may include identifying and contacting individuals who may be at risk in order to self-quarantine or self-monitor their health, as well as cleaning and disinfecting the location or impacted areas of the store.”
Phone calls to KWDZ Manufacturing Wednesday and Thursday were unanswered. A listing for the company on Google shows it is “temporarily closed.”
SEVERAL OTHER NEARBY OUTBREAKS
Asides from the four reported in Boyle Heights, county data showed several outbreaks in neighboring Eastside communities. In Vernon, 10 businesses have reported outbreaks; the largest, by far, is at Farmer John, with 183 confirmed cases. Multiple outbreaks are also reported in Commerce and South Gate.
The County also reported an outbreak at the East Los Angeles Sheriff’s station, where 20 employees and one inmate have tested positive.
This story was updated July 2 to add Walgreens statement.