COVID chaos as pandemic cases soar and shut down primetime shows (again)…

The Omicron variant might not be quite as deadly, but its virulent nature means it's spreading faster and more noticeably...

The Omicron Variant of the COVID virus is the unwanted ‘gift’ that keeps on giving – or rather taking… as the surge in the pandemic (including 37,215 new cases in Los Angeles County alone on Thursday) is shutting down or putting on hold a range of entertainment, ranging from Broadway shows to primetime drama.

The shooting on Star Trek: Picard (where the second and third season are being lensed back-to-back) is pausing after around FIFTY members of the production tested positive this week. Though star Patrick Stewart was apparently not one of the current number, it is believed that some of the people affected are in the ‘Zone A’ or central cast.  The announcement comes just a few days after LL Cool J pulled out of New Years celebrations after confirming his diagnosis and production was suspended on NCIS with significant shooting delays for sister-show NCIS: Los Angeles. The latter’s broadcast scheduling may not be too severely affected as the production had completed a number of episodes that have still to be shown. NBC has also confirmed there are delays to filming Chicago Fire because of ‘Zone A’ diagnosis and the pandemic protocols.

On the ‘presentation’ side Today co-anchor Hoda Kotb is now staying isolated after her positive result. Late night hosts Seth Meyers and Jimmy Fallon have both contracted the virus and have cancelled recordings for the rest of the week. James Corden’s Late Late Show has also paused production after the presenter got a positive diagnosis. The red carpet premiere for the fifth film in the Scream franchise, which was due to take place on January 11 has now been cancelled.

Various production companies are now insisting that as a health and safety issue they will insist on vaccination mandates for key personnel. Tyler Perry has confirmed his Tyler Perry Studios (based in Atlanta) will enforce the vaccine requirement for all cast and crew involved in its productions. Disney and Netflix  have said that they are requiring vaccinations for everyone working in respective ‘Zone A’ environments.

Given current escalations – and despite encouraging numbers from cinema box-office – it does look like there will still continue to be increasing effects on the industry, particularly if the expected wave of post-Christmas infections continues to play out…