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Hollywood Guilds, Studios Extend COVID Protocols With Two Modifications

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Hollywood’s COVID-19 safety protocols, agreed to by the entertainment industry’s top studios and guilds, have officially been extended until Sept. 30, with two small modifications.

The latest extension of the agreement, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter and posted publicly by the Directors Guild, is set to go into effect Saturday after the current agreement expires Friday. The deal reinstates that when COVID levels are high, entertainment sets cannot allow workers who are not fully vaccinated to take part in self-serve meals that use communal utensils like tongs or spoons. Moreover, when COVID levels are high, the agreement allows all vehicles transporting cast and crew to operate at full capacity (previously, at that point, vehicles could only be 75 percent full). Everyone in a vehicle must still be masked.

“If any vehicle contains a passenger who is not wearing a face mask (e.g. a cast member whose make-up has been applied), passengers shall observe physical distancing,” the agreement reads. THR reported on Thursday that the agreement was set to be extended again until Sept. 30.

The COVID “Return to Work” agreement has been in place since September 2020, and has since been extended several times, sometimes with revisions. A July 2021 update introduced vaccine guidelines for the first time.

This latest extension follows an early May update that involved loosening certain requirements in areas such as testing and masking, in parts of the United States and Canada with “low” COVID hospital admissions.

The new extension arrives as the Omicron subvariant BA.5 continues to spread nationwide, and Los Angeles itself reached the “high” COVID community level as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday. According to the Los Angeles Times California coronavirus tracker, the state has recorded 17,182 new cases and 37.1 new deaths in the past week.

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The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has recently noted outbreaks of three or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Mattel in El Segundo, Riot Games near Sawtelle and Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank.

The agreement allows for rules to become more stringent when hospital admittances for COVID-19 in an area reach a threshold amount. “Right now, because of the recent surge, productions in all major production centers are implementing the stronger protocols in Part 1 of the Agreement,” the Directors Guild stated in its announcement of the latest extension. “As conditions change, the Agreement provides productions the ability to relax protocols in areas when they experience low COVID hospital admissions.”

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