The Oscars finally has a Covid policy. Presenters and performers at next month’s Academy Awards will not be required to show proof of vaccination, but nominees and guests will.
People in the latter group also must have two negative PCR tests, Deadline has confirmed.
In a story posted tonight, The New York Times quoted an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences spokeswoman as saying Oscar presenters and performers indeed will be subject to rigorous Covid testing, however.
The Times also noted that audience members in the sections of the Dolby Theatre nearest to the stage won’t be required to wear a mask but will be seated farther apart from one another than usual. Those in the mezzanine, however, must wear a face covering.
The Academy is inviting 2,500 people, which is 75% of the venue’s 3,317 capacity.
The news comes a day after Hollywood’s unions agreed to extend the industry’s return-to-work Covid protocols, which allow for performers to be maskless while performing. As far as vaccinations, the rules for both TV productions and indoor public gatherings allow for their requirement. The updated protocols also redefine “fully vaccinated” as including a booster shot.
Several industry guilds this week confirmed the Covid protocols for their upcoming awards shows.
Last week, according to sources close to these events, it looked like the Academy had decided on not requiring vaccines or masks for those attending the Hollywood and Highland-set ceremony on March 27. While the Academy never officially confirmed or denied the policy, the backlash from the likes of former Oscars host Seth MacFarlane and others was swift and harsh.
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A week ago, as the town speculated about how the Oscars would handle vaccination, tests, masks and such, Deadline reported that the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said: “As current rates of community transmission continue to decrease, it is likely that the threshold for Indoor Mega Events will soon increase to 1,000 attendees. Public Health will work with the Oscars on their COVID protocols in-line with what is required for television productions.”
No official word on whether today’s news reflects discussions between government officials and the Academy.
But the last line of the county’s statement above is key. Currently, L.A. requires masks in most indoor public spaces and at all indoor “mega-events” with over 500 attendees. That’s even as California announced it will ease state requirements. (Local authorities like L.A. can be more restrictive than the state.) The catch with the Oscars is, awards shows aren’t considered “mega-events” under L.A. Public Health rules. They fall under the protocols for TV productions.
When the Emmys took place in September, there was some online outrage over images of unmasked celebrities in crowded rooms. L.A. officials later explained the distinction between mega-events and TV productions allowed for the doffing of masks at the ceremony.
“LA County’s Health Officer order requires everyone to wear a mask indoors, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated. However, exceptions are made for film, television, and music productions, as additional safety modifications are made for these controlled interactions,” the Health Department said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times.
“The Emmy Award Show is a television production, and persons appearing on the show are considered performers,” the County added. “All persons appearing on or in the audience of the Emmy Award Show were fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Also, Public Health was informed that each of these persons had a verified negative PCR test 48 hours prior to the show.”
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Today’s news appears to clear up one question facing the Oscarcast. Van Morrison, a vehement Covid conspiracy and anti-vax advocate, is nominated for his song “Down to Joy” from the film Belfast. Whether he would perform during the ceremony might have been in question, but the no-vaccine requirement for performers means that won’t be an issue.
The new protocols also are likely to create some confusion, however: For example, if a nominee also is a presenter, which category covers them?
Tom Tapp and Dominic Patten contributed to this report.
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