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WGA recommends Hollywood writers get vaccinated before gathering

A nurse wearing rubber gloves prepares a vaccine
A nurse prepares a shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine
(Associated Press)

Hollywood writers are the latest group of entertainment industry workers being urged to get vaccinated.

The Writers Guild of America is recommending its members be vaccinated against COVID-19 before meeting up with colleagues, according to a list of recommendations sent to members Monday seen by The Times. The move follows an agreement between entertainment unions like SAG-AFTRA, Hollywood’s biggest union, and an alliance of studios to allow productions to require cast and crews to be vaccinated.

The recommendations come as Los Angeles and other U.S. cities face a rapid escalation in new coronavirus infections. Increasingly, California-based workers are being asked to be vaccinated. The film industry is seemingly joining that wave. So far, strict protocols around masking, testing and social distancing have kept outbreaks on film and TV sets below the rates of other community activities, allowing the industry to keep working throughout most of the pandemic.

“Our priority continues to be to protect the well-being of writers in the workplace,” the WGA told its members. The union represents thousands of writers who write the content for television shows, movies, news programs, documentaries and animation.

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Independent film producers are still hampered by the effects of the pandemic.

TV show writers typically work together in so-called writers rooms to create scripts, but since the pandemic, most of this work has been done via videoconference. Some writers have expressed concerns about returning to writers rooms as L.A. County started to reopen in recent weeks. In response to inquiries from members about safety conditions, the WGA told members that while most writers rooms will continue to be held remotely, in-person meetings are subject to certain safety requirements such as masking indoors.

The WGA said employers are responsible for instituting safety measures and abiding by state, local and federal public health and Occupational Safety and Health Administration orders. It recommended that everyone onsite in a writers room be fully vaccinated.

It also recommended that writers should be allowed to work remotely, even if others are working in person. And writers’ ability to participate in an in-person writers’ room should not be a condition of employment.

Last Monday, SAG-AFTRA, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the Directors Guild of America, and the Teamsters and other basic craft unions agreed to new set of safety requirements to run through the end of September, which eased previous demands for sanitization and masking but added the ability for producers to require vaccination of workers.

That agreement includes triggers that allowed productions to snap back to previous tighter requirements, should the rate of the pandemic escalate in their region.

Under the terms, employers have to inform unions of their requirement to vaccinate and can only apply it to those cast and crew working in Zone A of sets — the area typically where actors perform unmasked — or drivers for cast members. Employers can also request to see a vaccination card or digital proof of vaccination, according to the terms. Workers can be exempt if they can provide verification that they have a disability or sincerely held religious belief that prevents them from being vaccinated, as long as accommodations are made that do not pose an undue hardship on the producers, according to the terms.

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