Movies

Los Angeles Film & TV Productions Must Now Require Masking Indoors As Covid Numbers Hit “Escalation Trigger’ Threshold, Says L.A. Official

UPDATED with details and quote: Mask up, Hollywood.

That’s according to Los Angeles County Public Health Officer Barbara Ferrer, and also seemingly according to the film and TV industry’s current Return-to-Work Agreement.

“With new hospital admissions reaching more than 8 per week per 100,000 population, they will resume indoor masking requirements, along with several other safety measures,” Ferrer said of film and TV productions in a media briefing today. Public Health data show that, as of today, the 7-day average number of hospitalizations per 100,000 residents has risen to 8.1. Some industry sources, however, question whether the so-called “Escalation Trigger” threshold has been met.

The Return-to-Work Agreement between unions and film and TV producers, which was last re-upped in May and actually relaxed some protocols, states the following:

Productions shall utilize the protocols contained in Part I in a metropolitan area (or county ifthere is no metropolitan area) or Province, as applicable, that meets the following metric (hereinafter, the “Escalation Trigger”): 8 or more new weekly COVID hospital admissions per 100,000 people over a seven-day interval (as reported by covidactnow.org for work performed within the United States). Those productions shall utilize the protocols contained in Part I immediately if the Escalation Trigger is met as of May 1, 2022.

If the metropolitan area (or county if there is no metropolitan area) or Province, as applicable, meets the Escalation Trigger subsequent to May 1, 2022, productions located in those areas shall immediately implement the masking requirements provided in Part I, but in no case later than 24 hours after the day on which the Escalation Trigger has been met, and shall utilize the other protocols contained in Part I as soon as practicable but no later than seven (7) days after the day on which the Escalation Trigger has been met.

One catch is that “as reported by covidactnow.org” bit. While L.A. County has the 7-day average number of new hospital admissions at 8.1 per 100,000 residents, covidactnow.org has it 7.3 per 100,000. That may mean that, contractually, productions are not yet required to return to masking. Or, it could be that L.A. County’s numbers are ahead of those on covidactnow.org and once the data on that site is updated it, too, will show the Escalation Trigger has been met.

Meanwhile, an industry source told Deadline today: “The assumption is that it’s going to hit eight hospitalizations per 100,000 this week, which will trigger the higher contractual requirement contained in the industry’s return-to-work agreement. It’s not there yet, because this has just been announced today. Many of the studios, however, never fully relaxed their higher levels of masking, testing and other requirements contained in the return-to-work protocols, on a show-by-show basis. So everybody will need to return to the more stringent protocols, if they haven’t already.”

Whatever the case, L.A.’s top health official seemed certain that Hollywood would soon be masking up again — and she praised the move.

“This industry has worked closely with their labor partners to institute Covid safety measures that create safety for all workers while being able to continue the important work,” said Ferrer. “We do applaud them along with many other businesses that are taking advantage of the many tools that are available to keep workers safe.”

She also noted that the industry has been more stringent than the CDC.

They had set for for themselves threshold at which they were going to return to indoor masking and they set that threshold at 8 hospital admissions per 100,000, slightly lower that the CDC threshold. And so now that we’ve hit that threshold, they have gone back to what they had before, which is required masking indoors. Now, obviously, they have many many details about when people [can] take off their masks.”

The current Return-to-Work protocols expire July 15.

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