California Governor Gavin Newsom Announces Guidelines For Restarting Film & TV Production On June 12, If Local Conditions Permit

Tom Tapp

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California Governor Gavin Newsom released on Friday his long-awaited guidelines for restarting film and TV production in the state amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Oddly, they were not presented at Newsom’s noon press conference, but later in the day.

The California Department of Public Health released guidance as follows:

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Music, TV and film production may resume in California, recommended no sooner than June 12, 2020 and subject to approval by county public health officers within the jurisdictions of operations following their review of local epidemiological data including cases per 100,000 population, rate of test positivity, and local preparedness to support a health care surge, vulnerable populations, contact tracing and testing. To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, productions, cast, crew and other industry workers should abide by safety protocols agreed by labor and management, which may be further enhanced by county public health officers. Back office staff and management should adhere to Office Workspace guidelines published by the California Department of Public Health and the California Department of Industrial Relations, to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

The reopening for production may not include L.A. County, however.

Newsom has said modifications to regional guidance would be allowed so long as there are attestations at the county level that there are adequate plans in place should a rise in COVID cases be seen again. As of Friday, 50 of the state’s 58 counties had made such attestations. Most notably, L.A. county was among them which, of course, has a huge impact on production.

But a key element of the attestation is available hospital capacity. As of May 18, when L.A. filed its attestation, the county had a stable or declining number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19. On Friday, the same day the guidelines were announced, L.A. County revealed a slight increase in hospitalizations.

“This has been a slight increase over the last three days in the number of people hospitalized,” said Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, “and we’ll need to make sure that we’re not starting to see a significant increase in the number of people requiring hospitalizations.”

Another state health official said, “If transmission has indeed increased, then the model predicts that we will have a continued increase in hospital patient volume over the next 2-4 weeks. And we would anticipate seeing that trend [become noticeable] over the coming 1-2 weeks.”

The hospitalization rate is a crucial number because one of the greatest concerns with COVID-19 is that its rapid rate of spread may quickly overwhelm health care systems, leading to more Angelenos going untreated and, presumably, a greater mortality rate.

The California Department of Public Health guidance released Friday notably says that, while there are benchmarks related to testing, tracing and hospitalization, “productions, cast, crew and other industry workers should abide by safety protocols agreed by labor and management, which may be further enhanced by county public health officers.” That puts establishment of the actual protocols in the hands or producers and guilds and, possibly local health officials.

The governor said in May his health director has been working with L.A. County Health Director Ferrer and may consider opening some parts of the county sooner than others.

On June 1, a white paper, developed by an industry panel, was reportedly delivered to the governors of New York and California.

On June 2, the white paper was presented to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors by its Economic Resiliency Task Force, which includes NBCU CEO Jeff Shell.

Union leaders said that the white paper is just a starting point for bargaining with management’s Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers for restarting film and TV production.

It was May 26 when the governor last spoke about these guidelines. That seems like a month ago now.

On the 26th, Newsom announced that, while he had hoped to present guidelines for restarting film and TV production that day, he was pushing back that announcement to confer with guilds and producers.

“We chose to engage a little more formally” in the conversations, Newsom said. “We want to extend them [the deadline] to later this week, possibly this weekend, because we are working with both industry and labor and they want to tighten up some aspects of the
guidelines.”

When asked more specifically about the holdup, Newsom said that “industry and labor asked for more time as they worked through some issues.” He said he sees the delay as a positive development since some of these were issues “that predated this pandemic.”

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