Hollywood COVID Protocols Extended as Talks With Studios Continue

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The entertainment industry’s COVID protocols will stay in place for now, as the unions announced an extension on Friday night.

The protocols, which have been in place for two years, were set to expire on Friday night. The industry unions — including SAG-AFTRA, IATSE and the Directors Guild of America — have been negotiating an update to the rules with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

“The current Agreement, which was previously scheduled to expire today, Sept. 30, will remain in place until a new Agreement is reached,” the unions said in a joint statement.

The latest major change to the rules came in May, when the two sides agreed to relax testing requirements and allow workers to go without masks. Since then, COVID case numbers have seen a modest increase and then a modest decline in Los Angeles County.

In recent weeks, L.A. County health officials have eased up on mask requirements in other settings, like jails and homeless facilities. Earlier in the summer, the county considered implementing an indoor mask mandate, but backed off as infection numbers stabilized.

In Hollywood, crews continue to abide by rules that divide production spaces into four different zones, with different rules for each. Employers are also allowed to impose vaccine mandates in Zone A, which includes everyone physically present on set, or those who come in contact with actors.

The rules also cover things like physical distancing and testing frequency. The COVID protocols have added considerably to production costs, with one study finding an increase of 5% to 6.5% for big budget projects. Additional expenses include COVID safety officers, testing materials and quarantine stipends.