On June 5, 2020, Governor Newsom announced that music, television, and film production would be permitted to resume in California, with numerous health and safety modifications in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The state government referenced the guidelines prepared by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers' Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Task Force, known as the "White Paper." (See DWT's blog post on the details of the White Paper.)

On Friday, June 12, 2020, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health issued its own Reopening Protocol for Music, Television and Film Production, attached as Appendix J to the County's Safer at Home Order. The protocols outlined in Appendix J address the minimum requirements for a production to safely reopen in Los Angeles County. The County has continuously updated Appendix J since June 12, 2020, to incorporate new guidance from the California state government and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and to clarify requirements for specific departments. Appendix J was last updated on August 18, 2020. Key updates that have been made to Appendix J since its issuance on June 12 are summarized below.

Workplace Policies and Practices to Protect Employee Health

  • Employers are required to inform employees of programs addressing sick leave, workers' compensation for COVID-19, and Governor Newsom's Executive Order N-62-20, which governs workers' compensation claims and the presumption of COVID-19 exposures in the workplace for the period of March 19, 2020, to July 5, 2020.
  • All employees who are suspected or confirmed to have been exposed to COVID-19 must follow guidance from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health regarding self-isolation and quarantine, as applicable.
  • If an employee is sick with COVID-19 and experiencing symptoms, they are not allowed to return to the workplace until (i) their fever has resolved without the use of fever reducing medications for at least twenty-four (24) hours and (ii) their symptoms are improving, with a minimum absence of ten (10) days from the onset of symptoms.
  • Employers must screen employees for possible symptoms of COVID-19 before permitting them to enter the workplace. At minimum, these health screenings must include a check-in addressing: (i) cough; 
(ii) shortness of breath; (iii) difficulty breathing; (iv) fever or chills; and 
(v) contact with a person known to be infected with COVID-19.
  • Employees, staff, cast, crew, vendors, clients, or others entering the workplace must be offered an appropriate face covering that covers the nose and mouth, which must be worn at all times, with only a few exceptions. For example, if an individual has been instructed by a medical provider that they should not wear a face covering, the individual should wear a face shield with a drape at the bottom. A formfitting drape under the chin is preferred. Masks with one-way valves should not be used. Employees must be instructed to wash or replace their face coverings daily.
  • It is preferred that audiences be seated outdoors rather than indoors, whenever possible. If hired audience members are used indoors, they must always wear face coverings and need to be seated such that they maintain physical distancing of at least six feet between each audience member. Workers hired to serve as audience members are required to adhere to all other employee requirements.

Measures to Ensure Physical Distancing

  • It is no longer recommended that audiences be limited to the lesser of 100 people or 25% of maximum occupancy of the space.
  • It is no longer recommended that employees serving as audience members serve as the same audience throughout the production.
  • Rehearsals that are not part of work associated with a specific production are not allowed.

General Measures for Infection Control

  • It is recommended that employers consider installing portable high-efficiency air cleaners, upgrading the building's air filters to the highest efficiency possible, and making other modifications to increase the quantity of outside air and ventilation in all working areas.
  • All visitors to the workplace over the age of two must be instructed to wear a cloth face covering over their nose and mouth, with only a few exceptions.
  • Only visitors who have been instructed by a medical provider to not wear a cloth face covering are exempted from wearing one. Face coverings should be made available to visitors upon arrival to the workplace.
  • Symptom checks for visitors must be conducted in a manner that is consistent with employee screenings. The checks can be done in person, via alternative methods (i.e., online), or through posted signage informing visitors that they should not enter if experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.

Craft Services and Catering

  • Craft service dining must be held outdoors.

It is crucial for employers to continue checking government and public health websites for updated orders and guidance, as they are updated frequently. All productions in Los Angeles County must be sure to comply with the most current version of Appendix J. Guild productions must also comply with the applicable guild guidelines, such as the White Paper and the COVID-19 Return to Work Agreement with DGA, IATSE, SAG-AFTRA, and Teamsters/Basic Crafts (published in late September 2020)

The facts, laws, and regulations regarding COVID-19 are developing rapidly. Since the date of publication, there may be new or additional information not referenced in this advisory. Please consult with your legal counsel for guidance.

DWT will continue to provide up-to-date insights and virtual events regarding COVID-19 concerns. Our most recent insights, as well as information about recorded and upcoming virtual events, are available at dwt.com/COVID-19.