The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is urging the film and TV industry to consider pausing production for a few weeks during the ongoing surge in coronavirus cases throughout the county. “Although music, TV and film productions are allowed to operate,” the health department said, “we ask you to strongly consider pausing work for a few weeks during this catastrophic surge in Covid cases. Identify and delay higher risk activities, and focus on lower-risk work for now, if at all possible.”
L.A. Public Health’s latest message, excerpts of which were posted today on FilmLA’s website, was sent to the department’s industry contacts December 24. It comes as the county Monday reported 73 new deaths and 13,661 new cases of Covid-19, with an estimated additional 432 deaths that reflect delayed reporting due to outages and the holiday weekend. On Sunday, L.A. Public Health reported 13,580 new positive cases and 44 new deaths.
On November 1, the average number of new cases in L.A. County was about 1,200; that number now “consistently exceeds 13,000 cases a day with some days exceeding 15,000 cases,” L.A. Public Health said Monday, when it reported 6,914 people with Covid-19 currently hospitalized and 20% of these people in the ICU.
The heath department’s message to FilmLA, the county’s film permit office, also reminded filmmakers that “travel for production purposes is currently not advised.” Although the state allows travel for productions, the department noted that travel increases the risk of transmission of the virus “by making it more likely that people will end up together in vehicles or indoors in less-controlled settings.”
“Hospitals are full virtually everywhere,” L.A. Health noted, and encouraged filmmakers to “keep cast and crew close to home.” Further elaborating on travel and quarantine requirements, the department noted that the County’s Blanket Health Officer Order on Quarantine was recently updated to include a shorter 10-day quarantine option. Appendix J – the health standards applicable to local film productions – will be updated soon to reflect this.” Even with these adjustment, however, officials caution that “the virus can still potentially incubate for up to 14 days, therefore heightened precautions and health monitoring are important.”
With two coronavirus vaccines approved for use and thousands of frontline healthcare workers already receiving their first doses, L.A. County Health reassured filmmakers that “there is a light at the end of the tunnel.” A new Covid-19 Vaccine Information Page was recently added to the county’s website, with weekly updates, a Myth-Busters Guide to vaccine safety and a dedicated mailing list and data dashboard to monitor vaccine distribution.
County health officials on several prior occasions have thanked the film industry for its efforts to control the Covid-19 surge. Helpful practices, according to LADPH, have included “moving more work outdoors, delaying higher-risk work, and putting some productions completely on pause.” And now more than ever, the department said, it is essential that on-set Covid-19 Compliance Officers remind on-set personnel to “keep up the physical distancing” and to “move people further apart” when they drift together.”
“You are our heroes!” the department’s update said of industry compliance officers.
To date, there have been 719,833 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Los Angeles County and 9,482 deaths.