Film and television productions have spent the past year and a half attempting to take COVID health and safety protocols into account. That’s been no easy task, considering normal working conditions require dozens and even hundreds of people in very close proximity to one another in indoor settings. Many studios have experienced delays and setbacks as – despite some best efforts – coronavirus exposures and infections still manage to crop up. Actor Sean Penn is now taking an even stronger stance, one that could very well have a broader impact across the industry.
According to Deadline, Penn will not return to film the Starz limited series Gaslit until all members of the production have been vaccinated. This would seem like a prudent decision, as the United States and Los Angeles in particular has seen a rise in Delta variant cases — to the extent that indoor masks have now become mandatory again. But Penn’s not stopping there, as he is also extending the use of his non-profit organization called CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort) to provide free vaccinations to the production.
This wouldn’t be entirely without precedent, as Deadline also reports that NBCUniversal has mandated vaccinations for those on the studio lot just this week. Importantly, Penn has already been fully vaccinated and is said to be less worried about catching the virus himself as he is about the overall working environment.
Other COVID Shutdowns
For those who might think Penn’s concerns are unfounded or that the pandemic is mostly behind us by now, there are plenty of other productions in recent days that have been dealing with a rash of delays due to COVID-19 infections.
Earlier this week, we covered three straight days of halted productions due to infections. First it was the Game of Thrones spin-off House of the Dragon and the Netflix titles Bridgerton and Matilda. that were shut down due to cases in the cast and crew, as well as possible exposures. Then came a halt filming on the tenth season of American Horror Story, involving a positive case stemming from an actor whose identity has been withheld. Finally, both HBO’s Westworld and Hulu’s Woke were forced to put a stop to filming because of multiple crew members testing positive.
And just this morning, the news came in that The Green Knight has seen its upcoming U.K. release put on indefinite hold as COVID cases are on the rise in the U.K. and distributor A24 is taking extra precautions for films that would likely attract an older audience.
The science is fully on Penn’s side, as studies have shown that vaccinations can significantly mitigate the risk of infection in the first place or, in rare instances of “breakthrough cases”, can lessen the severity of the illness. Vaccines are time-tested and scientifically proven resources that have helped humanity weather several previous pandemics and illnesses in the past. There’s no reason this needs to be any different.
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