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The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on Thursday reported 1,537 new cases of COVID-19 amid rising concerns of the Delta variant, which is threatening widespread recovery as it largely impacts unvaccinated Americans.
In an effort to curb transmission, L.A. County is once again requiring residents to wear masks in indoor public spaces through a new order that goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday. The order, from L.A. County Public Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis, was announced on a busy Thursday that saw high-profile premieres, events and social gatherings happening across the city as Hollywood continues to step out en masse.
The packed schedule saw events for Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso at Pacific Design Center, MGM’s How it Ends at NeueHouse, Disney+’s Turner & Hooch in Century City, John Mayer’s Sob Rock listening party at San Vicente Bungalows, BET’s First Wives Club at Rocco’s, a Blood Pageant premiere at The Federal, and the West Coast premiere of The House of Avalon documentary at Darren Criss’ Tramp Stamp Granny piano bar.
Attendees of events in recent weeks have been greeted by a (sometimes confusing, other times absent) mix of COVID-19 protocols — testing, temperature checks, proof of vaccination and mask mandates — that, insiders say, is largely dependent upon venue or county guidelines.
But with news of the rising Delta variant and the new mask mandate, insiders seem to be bracing for what could potentially be another tense phase of the pandemic. On Friday, The Hollywood Reporter learned that a planned screening of the Mark Wahlberg-starrer Joe Bell from Roadside Attractions has been canceled amid the office shutdown at his Beverly Hills agency WME, which was to host the Friday night premiere. As reported earlier in the day, WME notified its staff that it would be shuttering the office for a week out of caution.
Attendees of the Joe Bell screening would have been asked to provide proof of vaccination as well as filling out a health and safety form upon arrival.
On Thursday, Apple TV+ acted swiftly in requiring attendees of the Season 2 premiere of its hit Ted Lasso to arrive early in order to be tested in advance of admittance at the Pacific Design Center-held event. Also out of caution, the event was held outdoors where bleachers filled with mask-wearing fans watched as stars Jason Sudeikis, Juno Temple, Hannah Waddingham, Brett Goldstein and others mingled with Apple’s Tim Cook and show co-creator Bill Lawrence, among others.
“Due to the recent increase in the Los Angeles COVID rates, all guests and personnel attending the Season 2 Premiere of Ted Lasso will be required to show proof of full-vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test in order to enjoy the evening,” read an alert ahead of the Thursday’s event. “We appreciate your cooperation and consideration in keeping this a safe event.”
Having to get tested provided a welcome respite for comedian Nikki Glaser, who told THR on the blue carpet that she enjoyed the process. “I need a little breather. I need a buffer,” she explained. “The rapid test is just enough time to check your makeup, sweat enough to ruin the makeup, check it again and then say, ‘Fuck it,’ because I did my own makeup tonight.”
Co-creator Bill Lawrence got serious by saying that he didn’t want to make a political statement but he’s standing by his leading man. “Go get vaccinated, man. Ted Lasso says to go get vaccinated.” Executive producer Bill Wrubel called it “a bummer” that the Delta variant is rising, especially at a time when things were starting to look up. “After you’re vaccinated, you definitely start to have a little more comfort in the world, ‘Oh, I’m going to buy a concert ticket,’ or, ‘I’m going to do this or that.’ You start planning for the future so that has definitely changed.”
Safety has been the keyword as of late with many event organizers opting for outdoor events in Los Angeles. MGM presented the West Coast premiere of How it Ends from creative team (and real-life couple) Zoe Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein on the rooftop of NeueHouse Thursday night.
The film, shot in the city early on in the pandemic with strict safety precautions, follows Lister-Jones’ character and her metaphysical younger self (Cailee Spaeny) as she navigates a series of encounters and regrets ahead of a world-ending apocalypse. Press and photographers on the red carpet wore masks while attendees mixed, mingled and hugged without any testing protocols or mask mandates.
One of the stars of the film, Bradley Whitford, chose another word — frustrating — to describe the current situation.
“We’ve made amazing progress in this country but it’s frustrating to me that it’s being stalled by disinformation about vaccines,” explained the actor, who plays the father of Lister-Jones character in an amusing scene filmed in his backyard. “It drives me crazy that someone thought that that should be politicized and this is part of the cost of that. Hopefully, as people see numbers [rising], some of that reticence will go away. If there was no reticence about vaccines, this wouldn’t be happening and it’s happening all over the country.”
Science isn’t partisan, Whitford continued, relying on a personal anecdote about the importance of vaccines. “I’m from a family where a number of first cousins died of polio. My uncle died of whooping cough. There was no reticence about those vaccines to save lives.”
Another star of the film, Whitney Cummings, leaned on humor while also admitting that she was confused to see numbers rising at the level being reported in L.A. County, where nearly four million people still remain unvaccinated.
“I went numb so long ago that it’s the kind of thing where you realize that you can’t control it,” Cummings said of the latest mask mandate. “L.A. is a city full of people that all they do is Soul Cycle, eat kale and do yoga, and they can’t figure out how to wash their hands? It’s a little wild, so I don’t understand why we still have cases? I truly don’t know.”
Cummings added that the rising cases could result in rising paranoia over another wave of the pandemic.
“We have to be fearless when we go out there. I think it’s going to hurt entertainment a little bit because this is where we make it,” said the multi-hyphenate. “Everything is so stressful and I’ve been on comedy sets with everyone in shields, masks, hazmat suits and plastic boxes and it’s not conducive to comedy. We’re trying to do as few takes as possible, no make-up touch-ups, less improvising. If you’re doing something physical and fear is present, no other emotion can exist and we’re artists and we need to not have to be ruled by that.”
Elsewhere, at Thursday night’s Bachelorette: Men Tell All taping, filmed at Warner Bros. Ranch, reporters were required to take a PCR test 48 hours before shooting and an additional rapid test upon arrival (regardless of vaccination status), along with completing an online health screening. Masks were required while watching the taping but were allowed to be removed during the post-shoot interviews, as talent had also been thoroughly tested. Eating was also not permitted indoors.
Veteran event insider Darin Pfeiffer of The Impact Agency, who has helped spearhead events on both coasts, said the varying protocols are due to site-specific or local public health guidelines, or other concerns.
“Each place is different,” he said. For example, at HBO Max’s Gossip Girl premiere in New York, every guest in attendance had to be tested because the show was still shooting and the talent could not be exposed as it could threaten the production and other crew members. Other events have relied on proof of vaccination card, temperature checks and mask mandates.
“It’s really run the gamut,” Pfeiffer explained, adding that despite the measures, he has noticed that all guests (including boldfaced names) have been generous with time, care and attention to the required safety measures. “It’s all been very calm, orderly and organized — knock on wood.”
With reporting by Kirsten Chuba and Sydney Odman
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