Studios and guilds have voted to extend and expand Hollywood’s COVID safety protocols, which now require individuals to receive booster shots in order to be considered “fully vaccinated” or “up to date” on vaccines in the U.S.
In a message sent to union members on Wednesday, SAG-AFTRA national executive director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland announced that SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, the DGA, the Teamsters and Basic Crafts, and the AMPTP had reached a new extension on the current agreement that will last until April 30.
The agreement features “a few changes that reflect the evolving circumstances of the pandemic.” Those changes include the new booster shot requirement, which will go into effect on March 15, and upgraded mask requirements that force employers to provide N95, KN95 or KF94 masks. The unions made the request for better protective gear amid the rise of the Omicron variant. The previous agreement didn’t distinguish between cloth masks and surgical masks or respirators.
In addition to allowing greater usage of antigen tests, the agreement also restores workers’ “bank” of COVID-19 paid sick leave to 10 days on ongoing productions, even if they’ve already taken several days of PTO on those productions. Under the previous agreement, which expired on Sunday following an earlier extension in December, workers were limited to 10 paid sick days, at most.
Hollywood unions had also requested more frequent testing in Zones A and B, while the DGA told its members that “most studios” had already complied with this request as of late January.
The original agreement regarding COVID-19 safety protocols was reached in September 2020 and formally modified in July 2021. Since then, it has been extended several times during the rise of several variants — first Delta, then Omicron. COVID case numbers are falling in Los Angeles County, where people no longer have to wear masks outdoors as of Wednesday, though health officials expect a minor surge following the Super Bowl, which was held in Los Angeles this past weekend.
Stay safe out there, folks! And don’t forget to remain responsible out there, as this pandemic is still far from over.