Hollywood to drop COVID safety measures as federal emergency declaration ends
Key protocols used on film and TV sets to limit the spread of COVID-19 are set to end in May, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) said in a statement Thursday.
The dropping of restrictions for Hollywood productions will coincide with the end of the federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency declaration on May 11.
The so-called Return to Work agreement, which provided for sick pay for cast and crew as well as mandating social distancing measures and mask wearing, will end on May 12, according to the AMPTP, which represents film and television studios.
Employees will have five days of temporary COVID-19 paid sick leave per production, to be used by year’s end. Any shoot with a mandatory vaccination policy prior to May 12, 2023, may continue to apply that policy for the remainder of the production, the AMPTP said.
The agreement between major unions and the AMPTP was set to expire April 1. It was first enacted in September 2020.
Hollywood’s largest union debates how long to extend vaccine mandates and safety protocols as pandemic wanes.
The protocols had been credited with allowing film production to resume speedily in the wake of the health crisis. The AMPTP has previously produced data showing the measures limited the spread of the virus on sets. However the requirements led to increases in budgets and slow downs in production.
Requirement for some members of productions to be vaccinated against the disease had drawn controversy. Actors like Woody Harrelson, Tilda Swinton and SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher have been vocal in their opposition to safety protocols.
Drescher, though vaccinated herself, had called on Hollywood’s biggest union SAG-AFTRA to lift requirements for vaccinations on film sets. The agreement allows producers to require vaccinations for those cast and crew working near unmasked actors.
Some studios like Walt Disney had already started last fall to stop mandating vaccinations on some of its productions as hospitalizations waned.
The protocols used on film sets, which also required regular testing, exceeded the requirements of other industries.
Film and TV sets would be split into zones depending on risk. Zone A is where actors who are unmasked would be, and workers in that zone sometimes were required to test multiple times a week as well being vaccinated. Masks were still required on film sets, despite L.A. County lifting its indoor mask mandate last year.
The decision comes as Los Angeles County voted in February to end its COVID-19 emergency declaration at the end of this month. In February, Gov. Gavin Newsom formally rescinded the statewide emergency declaration issued three years ago during the onset of the pandemic.
Moreover, President Biden in January told Congress he would end the twin national emergencies for addressing COVID-19 on May 11.
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