Reopening- The Show Must Go On? California’s Contradictory COVID Guidance Continues for the Oscars and for Places of Worship

By Brandon Ristoff
April 15, 2021

Do you think people in the film industry are considered essential workers?

According to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, they will be on April 25, when they present the annual Oscars. 

Variety recently reported that those involved in the production, including the nominees and their guests, will be considered essential workers. This allows the awards show to take place mostly in person, whereas similar ceremonies like the Golden Globes were largely virtual events.  

Do celebrities really deserve to join the ranks of essential workers like those in healthcare, law enforcement, food production and service, and critical manufacturing? 

Plus, according to the California Department of Public Health, “essential travel”, similar to “essential worker” is “travel associated with the operation, maintenance, or usage of critical infrastructure or otherwise required or expressly authorized by law (including other applicable state and local public health directives), including work and study, critical infrastructure support, economic services and supply chains, health, immediate medical care, and safety and security.” Unless the Academy says that their “essential travel” is for medical care, because “laughter is the best medicine,” it does not seem to meet these standards. 

The Oscars shows California’s COVID guidance problem. California has the most absurd guidances in the country, with strict restrictions during performances while also redefining what is considered essential work. 

And other performances have other absurd rules. Do you want to sing or play a musical instrument as part of your church choir and band? The California Department of Public Health has a guidance for you! 

The CDPH states that “Performers singing, chanting, playing a wind instrument, or engaging in similar activities indoors must wear face coverings at all times.” How is that supposed to work if you are playing the clarinet or a flute? 

They also said “Such performers must maintain at least 12 [feet] of physical distance from other performers and 24 feet of physical distance from visitors or congregants.” Why twelve feet from the performers and twenty-four feet for everyone else? If you are a theoretical threat of spreading, shouldn’t it be the same distance for all those involved? Also, wouldn’t these numbers change if you are wearing a mask? The CDPH would also prefer (though not mandate) church performers get a negative PCR test within 72 hours prior to the service. Even the CDC has not come up with rules like that! Also, this guidance applies to all California COVID tiers!  

Let’s say you want to pre-record a musical performance prior to your church service so you can avoid the prior live performance restrictions. If you do this recording without masks, all performers are expected to take a PCR test (not a less expensive rapid test) prior to the recording, and still must be six feet away from the other performers. What place of worship has the finances to do that?

The California Department of Public Health continues to be out of touch with the public at large. Places of worship have been using common sense in order to make worship a safe and welcoming experience. Right now, every California county is in the red tier or lower and thirty-six counties are in the orange tier or lower. As we continue to reopen and after over a year of dealing with the pandemic, California and the CDPH continue to lack common sense on issuing guidance for reopening.

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Brandon Ristoff is a policy analyst for the California Policy Center.

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