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Lights, Camera, Safety!

Kai spoke with an infectious disease epidemiologist from his home in Maryland. 

If you’ve been binge-watching TV shows during the coronavirus pandemic, you’re not alone. According to the media giant Comcast, households in the United States are watching an average of eight additional hours of television per week during the pandemic. How is the entertainment industry keeping actors, directors, and others safe when they’re on set? 

Production companies have to ensure the safety of everyone involved in the creation of their films. If a cast or crew member gets sick, it can slow down the production of a film. In order to prevent any such setbacks, Netflix and other companies have hired infection prevention experts to create guidelines that everyone must follow to stay healthy. 

I recently spoke with Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease epidemiologist in Pheonix, Arizona. She has been working closely with the film industry during the pandemic. An epidemiologist with more than 10 years of experience, Popescu has provided public health advice to more than 15 films and TV shows since March. 

Ensuring that hundreds of people working in close proximity don't get COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is a difficult task. Safety measures, Popescu explained during our phone interview, “are more than just wearing PPE [personal protective equipment]. You need to know how to distance yourself and maintain good hygiene.” 


Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist based in Arizona, has been working closely with the film and TV industry to ensure the safety of workers during the pandemic. 


If someone contracts COVID-19 while on set, Popescu said, “we do a lot of contact tracing to make sure anyone who is exposed is quarantined for 14 days, [and we do a] deep cleaning.”

COVID-19 is difficult to contain. As new information is learned about the disease, infection preventionists are adjusting the health precautions they recommend.  

But not everyone follows the rules. According to Popescu, a few people have “pushed back” against the safety rules she has issued. Such instances are not tolerated since they threaten the health of the participant and those around them.

Whenever someone disagrees with a guideline, Popescu “takes the time to explain why that rule exists,” she said, “and why it’s important for them [to follow that rule].” She has found that this type of approach is effective in persuading people to take precautions.

Next time you binge-watch your favorite TV show, think about what was going on behind the scenes to make it happen. Ensuring the health and safety of the actors and crew is the top priority when producing a TV show or film. 

Photos courtesy of the author