SAG-AFTRA Cancels Most In-Person Meetings Amid Coronavirus Concerns

SAG-AFTRA Generic - Getty - H 2020
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The move, which also curtails non-essential travel, was disclosed Monday in an email to members.

SAG-AFTRA is canceling or postponing most in-person meetings across the country, the union announced Monday, in the wake of increasingly urgent coronavirus warnings from public health officials over the weekend directed at high-risk individuals.

The move, which also curtails non-essential travel, was disclosed in an email to members that follows a Friday email advising actors to report concerns to on-set medics or the union’s safety hotline.

"As the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak expands here in the United States and across the globe, we are taking action to further increase safety, while supporting essential member services and minimizing disruption to regular union business," the Monday email said. "This is a dynamic and fast-changing situation."

Over the weekend, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance on the disease caused by the so-called novel coronavirus to recommend that "older adults [and] people who have serious chronic medical conditions … avoid crowds [and] during a COVID-19 outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible." The guidance doesn’t define "older," but a study cited by the CDC notes higher fatality rates above age 60.

Also over the weekend, the head of another key agency, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, urged even greater precautions. "Don’t go to crowded places, think twice before a long plane trip, and for goodness sake don’t go on any cruises," said Dr. Anthony Fauci in an interview with The New York Times. For people who are particularly vulnerable, he said: "Don’t wait for community spread. Now is the time to do social distancing, whether there is spread in your community or not."

However, other entertainment unions do not, as yet, appear to have taken the steps the performers' union has, but are continuing to monitor the situation.

"While there is a potential public health threat posed by COVID-19, right now per the CDC, for the general American public, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low," said an email from IATSE to its members. "As this is a dynamic and evolving situation, we are closely following the most up-to-date guidance and information as provided by the Centers for Disease Control. In addition, we are in constant contact with our health plans and local health care centers to ensure the health and safety of our community."

An IATSE spokesman elaborated that the union’s Disaster Response Committee “is closely following the most up-to-date guidance and information as provided by the Centers for Disease Control, and is relaying that information to our Local Officers and members.”

At the American Federation of Musicians, president Ray Hair told The Hollywood Reporter that "our locals are handling the outreach to members currently, but we are monitoring the situation and will evaluate whether to provide additional advice." AFM Local 47, headquartered in Los Angeles, advised musicians and other members on Friday that it was preparing contingency plans.

The Writers Guild of America West and East did not respond to an inquiry, and the Directors Guild of America had no comment.