California's coronavirus surge to keep 'most' Hollywood productions on hiatus

Film and TV productions will remain paused until "the second or third week of January if not later," according to Hollywood's top union.

Most of Hollywood's entertainment productions are set to remain on hiatus until "the second or third week of January if not later" as COVID-19 cases continue to surge in California.

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In a letter Tuesday to the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists' approximately 160,000 members, president Gabrielle Carteris and national executive director David White said the labor union is monitoring the surge in COVID-19 infections and the reported lack of intensive care unit beds throughout the California and Los Angeles County.

"This is deeply concerning to us all and we have taken immediate action to connect with our epidemiologists and public health experts regarding the surge in cities across the nation," Carteris and White wrote.

SAG-AFTRA said the number of its member performers working on sets will be "reduced" and that its safety protocols will "ensure appropriate precautions for the holiday hiatus period," including additional time for testing prior to the resumption of production.

The union warned its members to remain vigilant and "adhere to safety principles to protect yourselves, your families, communities and colleagues," including wearing masks, maintaining a safe physical distance, washing hands frequently and well, and following public health recommendations.

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The announcement comes a day after the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health called on Hollywood to consider halting physical production in an email to FilmLA, a nonprofit group which serves as the official film office for both the city and county of Los Angeles. The organization helps coordinate permits for location shooting in the area, among other responsibilities.

“Although music, TV and film productions are allowed to operate, we ask you to strongly consider pausing work for a few weeks during this catastrophic surge in COVID cases," the LADPH wrote. "Identify and delay higher risk activities, and focus on lower-risk work for now, if at all possible.”

Public health officials also asked FilmLA to remind filmmakers that “travel for production purposes is currently not advised,” noting that it increases the risk of spreading the coronavirus “by making it more likely that people will end up together in vehicles or indoors in less-controlled settings,” with people from distant areas.

“Hospitals are full virtually everywhere,” the message also cautioned, encouraging filmmakers to, “keep cast and crew close to home.”

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Film LA said in a media advisory that the local film industry is "highly invested in efforts to control COVID-19" and began dialing back activity considerably earlier this month.

The organization added that film permit data published in January will show a signficiant decline in incoming applications for the month of December, noting that applications in the last week have hit lows not seen since the weeks after statewide film and television production resumed in June.

From June to November, FilmLA said it received over 3,550 film permit applications.

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On Tuesday, California announced that it would extend its regional stay-at-home order in Southern California and San Joaquin Valley.

Both regions have no available capacity in their intensive care units, according to state health officials.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced at the beginning of December that any region whose ICU capacity falls below 15% will enter a mandatory three-week shutdown.

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California reported more than 30,900 additional COVID -19 cases and 432 additional deaths on Wednesday, bringing the statewide totals to over 2.2 million confirmed cases and over 24,900 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles County reported over 10,000 additional coronavirus cases and 274 additional deaths on Wednesday, bringing the countywide totals to more than 756,000 cases and more than 10,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. There are currently 7,415 people hospitalized in Los Angeles county.