As production continues to ramp up, Deadline asked Los Angeles County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser on Thursday about the virus and its impact on film and TV production here.
While Gunzenhauser couldn’t put a number on how many cases had been reported on set in L.A., he did say that “there certainly have been cases.” He tempered that with the assurance that, “We haven’t had a major outbreak.”
“This is an important business sector,” said Gunzenhauser, “and we want to make sure there is a dialogue and we do need to learn from any outbreaks and communicate best practices.”
Among those best practices he said were the usual — social distancing, wearing face coverings, posting signs, hand sanitizer — but also, “as part of that business, where there might be closer interaction, we have to take every precaution to make sure that it is minimized.”
The key instance of this is, of course, with actors shooting a scene. There cannot be masks involved and often they’re working quite close.
“In collective activities, we need to have a shared set of instructions,” said Gunzenhauser, meaning that there can’t be one set of protocols for a first actor and then a second for another, especially if they’re in scenes together.
Many of these guidelines are enshrined in the various studio and union protocols that have been released.
Universal recently denied that a COVID-19 infection stalled shooting during the U.K. shoot of Jurassic World: Dominion. The studio said the production continues to run strong on day 60. While four crew members reportedly did tested positive on Malta, where the movie is shooting through mid-September, they went into self isolation, with the production scaling back to a second unit shoot.
On Thursday, Deadline’s David Robb reported that FilmLA has seen a sharp rise in applications for on-location filming in and around Los Angeles. The city and county’s film permit offices says that it has received some 1,127 film permit applications from 829 unique projects since June, with monthly applications increasing by nearly 40% in August over July and now averaging about 27 applications per day.
Robb notes that the agency doesn’t say how many projects actually have begun filming, but it says that after rising quickly in mid-August, overall film permit activity levels “have stabilized at around 44 percent of what FilmLA would expect under normal summer conditions.”
That’s pretty good, for a county still in the midst of a pandemic.
In terms of coronavirus numbers countywide, the 7-day average positivity rate among those tested in L.A. sits at 4.9 percent. According to California’s new tiered reopening system, that average would put L.A. in the “Moderate” category, allowing productions to move ahead and movie theaters to reopen at much greater capacity.
Unfortunately, as of Wednesday, the county had 10 cases per 100,000 residents. That puts L.A. in the much more restrictive “Widespread” category. And even if L.A. gets under the threshold of 7/100,000, it will have to maintain that for 3 weeks before being allowed to move to a less restrictive tier.