UPDATE: The CBS Broadcast Center in New York is slowly coming back to life even after a fourth worker tested positive for coronavirus on Friday. The drama has been playing out since Wednesday, when two employees at CBS Network News showed symptoms and tested positive. The whole building was disinfected and they’re trying to get it working as best they can. The busy production hub impacts numerous shows, including CBS Evening News, 60 Minutes, CBS Sunday Morning, Inside Edition and the local New York Evening broadcasts. Give the network credit for being changeable in crisis: the network news and CBS This Morning was quarterbacked from DC, while Deborah Norville hosted Inside Edition from her kitchen. The situation is fluid but the hope was to slowly integrate production back in the broadcast center this weekend, taking every precaution possible and getting everyone out when they’ve completed the newscasts. Here is an internal email issued yesterday by Susan Zirinsky, president and senior executive producer of CBS News:
CBS News Forms Race And Culture Unit, Alvin Patrick To Serve As Executive Producer
CBS NEWS CORONAVIRUS UPDATE NOTE #5 FRIDAY 5 PM
While everyone is hard at work reporting on this story, the global coronavirus news continues to impact us close to home. As I reported on this morning’s editorial call, there is a fourth case of a CBS News employee testing positive for coronavirus. This person worked closely with the three who previously tested positive. Each of those who have tested positive have provided a detailed list of everyone they have come into contact with during the past few weeks. Our HR team has made great progress in reaching all those who have come into contact with the confirmed cases and those people will be asked to self-quarantine.
We continue to put in place steps to keep everyone as safe as possible. ALL employees are expected to work remotely except for the small group related to a specific broadcast function. The EPs and managers are consulting with Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews as to each broadcast’s personnel list. We are committed to keeping our footprint in the Broadcast Center and all CBS News bureaus as small as possible and you must be specifically requested to come to work by your manager in order to gain access to the buildings. To protect our teams, it will be extremely critical that we keep our shifts in the building as short as possible for at least the next two weeks. Social distancing will be a priority. We are also increasing sanitization and cleaning between every shift.
We anticipate a very small team for “CBS This Morning: Saturday” returning early Saturday to produce the broadcast and then leave. “48 Hours” is on tape. “CBS Sunday Morning” and “60 Minutes” will have a handful of people to complete their broadcasts. The Saturday and Sunday editions of The CBS Weekend news will originate out of Los Angeles and be produced by KCBS with our LA bureau and oversight from NY.
CBSN Friday will remain in Boston WBZ and later in the day from San Francisco, KPIX. CBSN is finalizing their weekend and next week plans. They will not be in the Broadcast Center next week.
NewsPath will operate with a skeleton staff in the building, incorporating social distancing practices. A majority of that team will operate from remote locations.
CBS News Radio’s has been using Washington DC as a technical base with a limited footprint with anchors and writers around the country working remotely. They are finalizing their plans for next week.
We are continuing to remind every person who might be coming into the building: if you are sick or just don’t feel well, STAY HOME.
Covering this story – and being part of this story – has taken an incredible effort from every corner of this organization. Our technical staff and operations, our broadcasts, CBSN, CBS News Radio, NewsPath, and all the CBS News bureaus around the country and the world have been have been outstanding, as broadcast locations have moved, teams shifted and many working from home and more. I know none of this is easy, but you have all excelled under extreme personal and professional pressure. I am enormously grateful to everyone.
We will continue to update you as information becomes available. I continue to encourage all of you to take advantage of the resources below. And please reach out with any questions.
March 13, 8:15 PM PST: The coronavirus scare directly hit the Friday night newscast for WCBS-TV in New York. Instead of the newcast opening with regular anchors Maurice DuBois and Kristine Johnson, there was Pat Harvey, who sat in tonight, anchoring the local New York newscast from Los Angeles. This is the second night, as crews continued to disinfect the CBS Broadcast Center in New York because of three reported cases of coronavirus. She didn’t say who, but added that “both Maurice and Kristine are doing fine.”
The telecast was dominated by the impact of coronavirus in New York City, the question of whether public schools should close, and the scarcity of food on supermarket shelves. But rarely does a story hit home the way it has for WCBS-TV.
Peter Dunn, President, CBS Television Stations, and President and General Manager, WCBS-TV and WLNY-TV said both the Los Angeles and San Francisco affiliates have been helping with the anchoring while their Gotham colleagues deal with the scare:
“We have been planning for the possibility of making operational adjustments if we needed to be out of the Broadcast Center for any reason,” he said in a statement. “Our number one priority is the health and safety of our employees. Thankfully, we have people and technical resources across our station group that are keeping CBS 2 on the air and serving our viewers at a time when we know they are counting on us for the latest news. I can’t begin to express how proud I am of our employees. They truly are the best in the business. We’re working hard, staying safe and looking forward to returning to the Broadcast Center once the cleaning has been finished.”
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