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Studios and guilds have changed their guidance on appropriate masks and the definition of when an individual is “fully vaccinated” in their latest extension to the industry’s COVID-19 safety protocols agreement.
In a message to union members on Wednesday, SAG-AFTRA national executive director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland announced that SAG-AFTRA, the Directors Guild, IATSE, the Teamsters and Basic Crafts and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) had reached a new extension on the agreement that will last until April 30, “with a few changes that reflect the evolving circumstances of the pandemic.” The AMPTP confirmed on Wednesday the parties did reach an agreement.
Those changes include incorporating boosters into the agreement’s definition of what it means to be “fully vaccinated” or “up to date” on vaccines in the United States, a change that will go into effect March 15. The agreement additionally restores workers’ “bank” of COVID-19 paid sick leave on ongoing productions to 10 days if they have already taken several days of that PTO on those productions (previously, a worker was limited to a maximum of 10 paid sick days). The agreement allows more use of antigen tests, according to SAG-AFTRA, which did not specify in what situations they were allowed.
In a nod to a request that industry unions made of producers during the rise of the omicron variant, SAG-AFTRA says that “upgraded mask requirements, including KN95, KF94 or N95 masks provided by the employer,” are now enshrined in the agreement. (Previously, the agreement did not distinguish between cloth or surgical masks or respirators.)
The agreement expired on Sunday after the employers and unions had previously agreed to an extension in late December. Since that December extension, amid the rise of the highlight contagious omicron variant, the unions requested some additional safety measures that weren’t included in the agreement, including more frequent testing for Zones A and B, “promotion” of booster shots and the aforementioned use of N95, KN95 or KF94 masks from producers. The Directors Guild of America told members in late January that “most studios” had complied with this request.
The agreement was last formally modified in July of 2021, when it first incorporated vaccines and gave producers permission to mandate vaccines in Zone A. No mention of changes to this optional vaccine mandate was made in SAG-AFTRA’s Wednesday message. The agreement, first reached in Sept. 2020, has been extended several times since the July changes, throughout the rise and fall of both omicron and delta variants.
This latest extension arrives as COVID case numbers in Los Angeles County are falling and the county made changes on Wednesday to its outdoor masking rules, given that hospitalization levels have stayed low. However, local health officials cautioned residents to be on guard and follow safety measures during Super Bowl festivities the weekend of Feb. 13, as L.A. served as the game’s host city.
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