Over the weekend, Los Angeles County issued a revised version of its "Safer at Home" order that narrows the definition of "Essential Business." Based on this revised order, it appears that the county does not intend to exempt entertainment-related production companies and studios from the mandatory closure/work-from-home directive.
The new version of the Safer At Home order states that "Newspapers, television, radio, magazine, podcast, and journalism activities," are designated as "Essential Businesses"; the prior version of the "Safer at Home" order defined Essential Businesses as "Newspapers, television, radio, magazine, podcast, and other media services." (Emphases added.) Notably, neither version of the order identified film or features production as an Essential Business.
Definition of Essential Media Businesses Narrowed
By replacing the broad "other media services" with "journalism activities," it appears that the county is narrowing the definition of essential media businesses to exclude entertainment-related production companies and studios, while news and journalism production may continue in-person operations. While the order is vague, this interpretation is bolstered by the decision to exclude film production from the list of Essential Businesses.
The status of entities that produce documentary content – which ordinarily may be described as a form of "journalism activit[y]" – is uncertain. At this moment, however, it may be prudent to follow a more conservative interpretation of the order and to conclude that companies that produce documentary content are not exempt.
Essential Business Safety Practices
The order does not prohibit non-essential businesses from continued operation using remote work, with employees working from home. Essential businesses that remain open are required to practice social distancing and take other health-related measures, including:
- Keeping individuals six feet away from each other;
- Providing hand-washing facilities or hand sanitized with at least 60 percent alcohol content;
- Post a sign instructing members of the public not to enter if they are experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness, including fever or cough;
- Adhere to LA County Department of Public Health communicable disease control recommendations.
Violation of the order is a misdemeanor criminal offense.
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.
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