fashion nova, garment workers, garments, Los Angeles, LA, fashion, fast fashion, sustainabillity

In just three weeks, another 100 workers at Fashion Nova’s Los Angeles distribution center were added to L.A. County data tracking businesses with outbreaks of the coronavirus.

The popular fast-fashion brand has seen 304 employees become sick with the virus, according to data collected by L.A. County’s health department, up from 203 toward the end of January, as WWD reported. It’s certainly not the only brand or retailer to see worker cases increase, sometimes dramatically, in recent weeks, according to county data, but it has had one of the highest case counts among fashion businesses in the L.A. region.

However, Fashion Nova insists that the county numbers are not representative of the current health situation at the facility, which employs thousands of workers. A representative of the brand said the county data shows the total number of worker cases over the last four months, admitting that about 250 workers who became ill in that time have returned to work. According to an internal tally, Fashion Nova says roughly 40 workers that became ill did not return to work because they’re assignments had ended, while there are currently 20 employees out due to COVID. All told, it said 307 workers have had the virus since October.  

Meanwhile, the county describes its data as current and updated daily, but a representative could not be reached for further comment. County data also shows a number of case counts among various businesses in L.A. that have actually fallen in recent weeks — and it has removed some businesses altogether, as they no longer have workers with the virus. Still, Fashion Nova’s facility remains open and a representative said county health officials have visited, leaving it as such.

Over the summer, Dov Charney’s L.A. Apparel was forced to shut down for a time because it had more than 300 workers ill with COVID-19 and four related deaths. Now, L.A. Apparel has reported 62 cases, up from 35 three weeks ago. And still more brands and retailers are seeing outbreaks either pop up for the first time or increase in the same time frame, while a few others have managed to reduce the number of ill workers.

Louis Vuitton now has 80 ill workers at a single manufacturing center in San Dimas, up from 29 spread between two centers in late January. Reformation has 52 ill workers, up from 21. Bottega Veneta appears to have a new outbreak at its Beverly Hills flagship, now reporting 11 cases of the virus among workers there. And a Vans distribution center is newly reporting 155 cases among its workers. Amazon, between five L.A. distribution centers, has 422 cases of the virus, up from 328 cases between six centers. Target has 487 cases between 12 stores, actually a slight decrease from a previous count of 572 cases between 17 stores. 

Meanwhile, a Michael Kors distribution center has remained steady with 88 worker cases, as has Revolve, with 28 cases.

A few stores have managed to get themselves off of county data altogether, as employees apparently recover from the virus. Nordstrom is one such retailer, after reporting 42 cases between two store locations. Another is the Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills, which previously had 13 workers ill with the virus. But it’s clear that workers in retail and related distribution jobs are still at risk of contracting the virus, as their work requires them to either interact with the public or large numbers of colleagues on a daily basis.

The general situation with the pandemic has significantly shifted in L.A. in recent weeks, after about two months of a post-holiday increase that saw daily records of new cases and area hospitals pushed to a breaking point. Although the region is still reporting thousands of new virus cases every day, and is averaging roughly 450 related deaths a week, state and city officials have hailed a rapidly decreasing positivity rate as a good sign. At the end of January, L.A. quickly followed the state in reopening nearly all businesses that had been closed due to the post-holiday spread, including restaurants and hair salons, and cases have continued to decline over the last two weeks.

But nonessential retail in L.A. has remained open only with certain capacity restrictions since May of last year, and many warehouses and manufacturing have not been closed at any point during the pandemic. Deemed essential businesses since the outbreak began last March, such workers have continued to interact with the public and each other on a daily basis. And businesses have only been required to publicly report to county health officials cases since November, as part of emergency measures put in place.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated after its initial publication to include claims of Fashion Nova regarding its current worker health situation.

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