Hollywood Studios to Extend COVID Protocols to September

Hollywood studios have extended their deal with cast and crew unions to extend COVID-19 safety protocols until September 2022. The deal, which was originally set to expire today, makes no changes to the current safeguards in place to curtail the spread of the coronavirus during TV and film productions. This is just the latest extension of the protocols—first established in September 2020—which have been in place in their current version since July 2021 and were initially set to expire on September 30th last year. The extension comes as the Omicron BA.5 subvariant, which is highly contagious and immunity-resistant, is moving through the U.S. The protocols had been modified in May, when testing and masking rules were relaxed in areas with low hospital admission rates.

The protocols permit producers to mandate vaccines in "Zone A," which is the area with the cast, as well as the crew members who work most closely with them on set. It also requires productions to hire COVID-19 compliance supervisors. Those outside of Zone A do not have to be vaccinated. 

The initial return-to-work protocols were initially established by an agreement between the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and Hollywood's unions, the Directors Guild of America, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, the Teamsters, and the Hollywood Basic Crafts.

The rapid spread of the BA.5 variant forced productions in Los Angeles to return to regular mask-wearing, as the hospitalization rates had risen significantly. Even with most industries returning to work, and most productions rolling along on schedule, there have been a number of COVID-related cancellations and delays during the recent Omicron surge. Some films, including the latest Scream film, have cancelled their red carpet premieres due to COVID-19 surges. Even awards ceremonies have seen delays due to COVID cases, with the Critics Choice Awards being delayed due to rising case numbers. Television has been impacted, too, with Fox's new television series, Monarch, delayed from a midseason premiere until the fall as a result of the pandemic.

The Los Angeles Times was the first to report the news of the extension.