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California's Covid-19 surge forces 'most' Hollywood productions to stay on hiatus, top union says

The announcement came a day after the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health called on Hollywood to consider halting physical production for a few weeks.
Image: US-HEALTH-VIRUS-EMERGENCY
Paramedics administer oxygen to a potential Covid-19 patient on the sidewalk before taking him to a hospital in Hawthorne, Calif., on Dec. 29, 2020.Apu Gomes / AFP - Getty Images

The labor union for professional film and television actors told its members Tuesday that "most entertainment productions will remain on hiatus until the second or third week of January, if not later" as Los Angeles grapples with an alarming spike in coronavirus cases.

In a letter, the leaders of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists wrote that they were "closely monitoring the recent surge in COVID-19 infections, along with the reported lack of intensive care unit (ICU) beds throughout the state of California, and particularly in Los Angeles County."

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The number of SAG-AFTRA members working on sets will be "reduced," the union's president, Gabrielle Carteris, and the group's national executive director, David White, said in the letter. They added that the union's safety protocols "ensure appropriate precautions for the holiday hiatus period."

The announcement came a day after the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health called on Hollywood to consider halting physical production for a few weeks as Covid-19 cases explode across the area, claiming scores of lives and overwhelming hospital systems.

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

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The health department's message was posted on the website for FilmLA, the official film office for the city and county of Los Angeles. The organization helps coordinate permits for location shooting in the area, among other responsibilities.

California has recorded more than 2.2 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 — the most of any state in the country, according to an NBC News tally. Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the U.S., has seen more than 740,000 cases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

In all, nearly 25,000 people have died of Covid-19 across California, including nearly 10,000 in Los Angeles.

Diana Dasrath contributed.