Discovery's TV Set Safety Protocols Include Small Teams, "Health Declarations"

Discovery Communications- Getty - H 2020
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In a health recommendations document obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, the company behind HGTV, Food Network, TLC, Animal Planet and more also suggested private travel and nixing overnight accommodations.

As states begin to offer their own protocols for Hollywood to return to work post-coronavirus, Discovery, Inc. is requiring independent production companies working on its shows to submit a plan assessing and mitigating risk on upcoming productions for review and follow a set of standard health recommendations.

Among the corporation's suggestions to production companies is to choose outdoor production locations that are isolated from the public and large enough to allow for social distancing and to keep production teams as small and separate as possible, according to a document circulated to show producers and shared with The Hollywood Reporter. In the document, a rare early look at a major American unscripted company's production plans amid the ongoing pandemic, the owner of HGTV, Food Network, TLC and more is also recommending private transportation to production locations whenever possible and avoiding overnight accommodations altogether.

Introducing its health recommendations, the company makes plain that it is offering guidelines only and is not responsible for the consequences of any specific company's health decisions. "These guidelines and protocols should be a part of the overall production risk assessment and mitigation plan and should be implemented as far as reasonably practical," the document states. "Following these recommendations will not guarantee against a COVID-related event that requires a further shutdown of production, and each production company is responsible for its decision to resume production."

But while many of Discovery's recommendations leave room for alternate approaches, the company requires that a production obtain a "health declaration" from all cast and crewmembers at the start of the production. Signing the declaration, an individual promises they do not have any coronavirus symptoms and have not for the previous seven days; have not been in contact with anyone with symptoms for the previous 14 days, to the best of their knowledge; will report if they experience any symptoms or have contact with anyone with symptoms; and will get tested for COVID-19 if they develop symptoms and testing is available. If members of the cast or crew do develop symptoms or come into contact with those with symptoms, they are to self-isolate and/or be sent home, the company adds.

Unlike production protocols released Wednesday by Tyler Perry for his Atlanta studio but similar to Georgia's statewide requirements, Discovery is not requiring any member of its show teams to be tested for the coronavirus prior to or during production. "It is unlikely that any clinical testing of production team members will be available or practical for productions," the document states. "However, all production members should be monitored for symptoms (if possible, by a medic or designated trained person)."

Temperature checks are also not required, though recommended: The document states that production companies "may want" to conduct the checks on cast and crew regularly, with consent. "Test results should be recorded and anyone with a raised temperature (>37.8c or 100.4f) should be sent home (by private transport)," the document adds.

The suggestions also strongly advocate for keeping cast and crewmembers at least six feet apart, frequently disinfecting commonly used surfaces, encouraging repeated hand-washing for crew and castmembers and fresh air circulation in indoor production spaces. Of personal protective equipment, the document states, "It is not a governmental guidance to wear protective masks or other PPE measures in the workplace other than in healthcare settings. However, production teams should make masks available to all talent and crew members when requested." (In the "general recommendations" section of the document, the company suggests, "Consider wearing masks whether social distancing is possible or not" and tells productions to follow local guidelines on PPE.)

In a statement about the health recommendations, a Discovery representative says, "Safety of our talent, producers, employees and crew is of the utmost importance. We are focusing on pursuing remote preproduction and postproduction where possible. We are making it clear that decisions on whether to resume production must be made in accordance with all applicable governmental 'stay-at-home' orders and local guidelines. To this end, we have asked our partner production companies that want to restart work to submit an assessment and mitigation plan in line with current governmental restrictions and health guidance, for our review." The company notes that during the pandemic, its channels have broadcast several shows self-taped by talent, including HGTV's Hot Mess House and Food Network's Amy Schumer Learns to Cook.

The company representative added, "We are working closely with producers, companies and staff who are voluntarily returning to work. No crews or employees are being forced to return to productions and we are relaxing our timelines to ensure that adherence to safety guidelines is the number one priority. Safety will not be sacrificed in order to meet deadlines. As part of this process, Discovery is providing production partners with in-depth guidelines, recommendations and best practices to help educate them, ensure safety and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. We will continue to learn, adapt and evolve the guidelines as we progress."

Says one producer on a Discovery, Inc. show that is preparing to start production in a post-coronavirus world, "We were actually all very happy to get any guidelines at all. We have our own ideas on how to remain safe but we are not authorities and we cannot be held liable for this, so we were relieved to have some direction."

Read the full document below.