After brief pause over the holidays, studios have resumed filming on sets across Los Angeles County despite an alarming surge in coronavirus infections, with ten people testing positive for the virus every minute. The decision has been controversial, pitting the business imperatives of The Industry with the health imperatives of its workers and the community. Earlier this month during the pause in production, SAG-AFTRA’s Gabrielle Carteris commented, “Patients are dying in ambulances waiting for treatment because hospital emergency rooms are overwhelmed. This is not a safe environment for in-person production right now.” Since March, California has included film industry workers as part of the “essential workforce”, thereby exempting them from mandatory stay-at-home orders. Studios claim that on-set safety protocols have been effective in minimizing risk and controlling transmissions. These measures include strict use of PPE, frequent testing and mandatory shut down of production when positive test results are indicated. According to data provided by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, while the virus transmission rate within the general community in Los Angeles sat at 14% in late November, the industry spread rate during that same period was 0.2%. Still, setting the proper balance between public health and economics has proven to be a difficult challenge in the face of the pandemic.
See also: COVID surge throws ‘essential’ Hollywood production plans up in the air (LA Times)