SAG-AFTRA and Producers Guild of America (PGA) have recommended a temporary hold on “in-person” production in southern California amid an ongoing rise in Covid cases as authorities struggle with a shortage of intensive care unit hospital beds.

As many productions by major studios and streamers remain on hiatus across the region, the post-Christmas infection surge is materialising.

LA County averaged more than 16,000 daily infections in the first three days of the year. Overall the area has returned more than 819,000 cases and more than 10,773 deaths.

Across California the number of infected has reached 2.37m, of whom more than 26,637 have died. According to the Los Angeles Times, 414,684 people have received their first vaccine shot, representing roughly 1.4% of the state’s population.

On Sunday (January 3) SAG-AFRA’s joint policy committee made its recommendation until more hospital beds become available.

“Southern California hospitals are facing a crisis the likes of which we have never seen before. Patients are dying in ambulances waiting for treatment because hospital emergency rooms are overwhelmed. This is not a safe environment for in-person production right now,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris.

“Even putting aside the risk of acquiring COVID on set — a risk that we have done a great deal to mitigate through our safety protocols — on-set production always poses some risk of injury, whether because of a stunt gone wrong, an equipment failure or a garden-variety fall. Right now, with few if any hospital beds available, it is hard to understand how a worker injured on set is supposed to seek treatment,” said SAG-AFTRA national executive director David White.

A statement from PGA presidents Gail Berman and Lucy Fisher read, “We take the health and safety of our members, cast, crew and community very seriously. As a result of the COVID surge and lack of hospital capacity, we encourage everyone currently shooting in Southern CA to delay production until the county health officials indicate it’s safe to resume.

“While we realize these are tough times and this is a tough decision, producers must and do serve as leaders both on our productions and in the community at large. Hopefully, we will be back to work soon.”