Entertainment NewsHollywood Unions and Studios Extend COVID Protocols

Hollywood Unions and Studios Extend COVID Protocols

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Hollywood’s unions and studios have agreed to extend their COVID protocols with a few minor changes.

Although there has been a decrease in COVID hospitalizations and cases over the past two weeks, officials are now concerned that there might be an increase again during fall and winter.

Hollywood’s COVID-19 protocols have undergone some minor changes after a lengthy negotiation period, as the industry adapts its approach to the pandemic.

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They temporarily extended the latest agreement between unions and studios to allow more time for discussion. Both sides have now agreed to change the deal to enable daily antigen tests for cast and crew members who work most closely with them during a surge in COVID cases, rather than requiring tests at least three times per week (one of which must be a PCR test). The agreement’s most stringent protocols will only take effect when there are 14 COVID hospital admissions or more per 100,000 people—this is an increase from the previous threshold of 10 new COVID cases per 100,000 people for seven straight days. 

The inclusion of hospitalizations in the criteria for strict protocols means that even if there is an increase in cases, the only time those protocols will be put into place is when the illness results in a hospital stay. The new deal also provides six additional sick days to workers impacted by COVID-19.

Even so, employers can elect to establish more rigid processes for masking and testing on productions, and can continue to make vaccinations mandatory in “Zone A” sets, the statement included. If this winter sees an intense COVID surge, the unions and studios have the right to bring back past protocols. “In all cases, the full set of stricter protocols will be reintroduced if there is a COVID-19 surge over the winter,” the statement says. The agreement has been extended and will last until Jan. 31, 2023.

“The agreement maintains the multi-faceted approach that has kept the industry working safely since shortly after the onset of the pandemic. The extension maintains core protocols while permitting minor modifications reflecting improved conditions in most areas,” said the Directors Guild of America, SAG-AFTRA, the Hollywood Basic Crafts and IATSE in a joint statement.

Although the number of COVID cases and hospitalizations have decreased in California over the last two weeks, health officials are warning that there may be an increase in newCOVID instances, including with new Omicron subvariants, as well as a severe flu season.

Hollywood has had COVID protocols of some variety in place since September 2020 and are usually given credit for getting the industry working again. The two-tiered agreement starts with stricter protocols when COVID rates increase and then falls back to less relaxed guidelines when the danger decreases. The deal, readdressed every few months by large unions and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) on behalf of employers, hasn’t seen many changes since it was put into effect in 2020 other than to note the recent vaccines.

Still, the state of the agreement is not satisfactory for everyone. In September, a national board meeting was held by SAG-AFTRA to discuss vaccine requirements on selected productions; however, this idea is met with opposition from some members. “The board concluded its meeting without taking any action to modify the existing policy supporting the employer’s ability to implement such mandates subject to the protective provisions contained in the return to work agreement,” SAG-AFTRA said in a statement upon the conclusion of the meeting.

Furthermore, those invested in the industry are starting to explore what deals may come after this one expires. IATSE announced to members that it has put together a team to investigate how the value could be “phased out” when it nears its end.

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Megan Dianehttps://www.projectcasting.com
Hi, I'm Megan Browne, the Head of Partnerships at Project Casting - a job board for the entertainment industry. As Head of Partnerships, I help businesses find the best talent for their influencer campaigns, photo shoots, and film productions. Creating these partnerships has enabled me to help businesses scale and reach their true potential. I'm excited to continue driving growth by connecting people with projects they're passionate about.

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