WASHINGTON, May 7, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- The COVID-19 global pandemic by its very nature of how and what a pandemic behaves has created an unprecedented and rapidly evolving environment in which the industry has to operate.
Additionally, the amount of disinformation, speculation, and uninformed forecasting has created its own pandemic; complicating how senior management teams grapple with short term, real-time impacts on their businesses. All the while trying to forecast the longer-term impact and formulate strategies for return to work productivity.
The TMT sector, specifically Media, is experiencing a myriad of short-term revenue impacts due to delayed exhibition of content, ad sales cancellations, and delays, and a complete shutdown of global film and television production to name just a few.
"A continued shutdown of film and television production until there is a therapeutic or vaccine to battle COVID-19, versus a strategic production ramp up, with strict virus mitigation protocols, is simply not acceptable. The industry has to produce inside this COVID-19 environment, or the long-term effects will be devastating to one of the United States' most important economies and treasured exports," stated Charles Segars, a media executive, and crisis mitigation specialist for OPSEC Alliance. "Studios have already formed internal working groups with decision-makers representing finance, human resources, legal, global safety & security and physical production as they prepare for an inevitable ramp-up and return. We strongly believe they should target the 3rd quarter, understanding that significant adjustments will have to be made on how they produce as well as accepting that they will be facing a myriad of changing domestic and international requirements. There is nothing these organizations can't accomplish."
Timothy Stefanick, a retired Marine colonel, who now leads the OPSEC Alliance mitigation teams stated, "We have encouraged and helped media partners to connect with local, state, federal and international regulatory bodies to better understand timelines of re-openings and virus mitigation requirements. However, we have also cautioned that these government agencies and their assumptions are rapidly changing and do not take into account all the unique challenges the makers of film and television content face. It is a manufacturing ramp-up like no other, particularly because production requires an extraordinary amount of logistics, as large groups of artists and craftspeople must be traveled, housed, and fed while working across varying locales around the world. The onus of coordination will be on the studios since most regulatory bodies continue to have varying standards. There is no playbook for operating a robust production ramp-up within a pandemic environment. However, there are many learnings drawn from how our advance teams and military have moved world leaders, and command and control organizations through epidemic hot zones while mitigating exposure."
Both Stefanick and Segars have personal experience in the arena of global logistics, security, safety, and movement of world leaders and staff. Stefanick was a Military Aide and Emergency Actions Officer to the Office of the Vice President of the United States serving two Vice Presidents (2008-2011) and Segars was a top Advance Team Leader for the Office of the President and Vice President of the United States (2008-2016).
Segars emphasized that "level setting" data regarding COVID-19 including behavioral characteristics and associated timelines must be widely accepted and used as a baseline - referring to his COVID fact list below which is listed below.
"If you believe the science of what we know about this virus, and embrace what we still do not understand, then designing real mitigation protocols inside the traditional production process will be much more effective and can allow for a return to work." However, Segars did caution, "there is an extraordinary amount of work to do and all the outside stakeholders ? unions, guilds, financiers and production insurers ? must have authorship in said mitigating protocols. They must accept the very nature of this pandemic will create hot zones in and around the locations that production is taking place."
Stefanick also emphasized that 100% COVID-19 free mitigation is "simply not possible inside any production process. However, by creating said protocols, you can greatly lower the chances of exposure, and if/when someone is exposed, greatly reduce the impact on the production going forward. It is always a people-first mitigation strategy."
Segars was quick to add, "Behaviorally, production personnel will need to see global COVID-19 cases and critical care numbers decreasing AFTER the current social distancing and gathering protocols have been systematically relaxed. They will need to see and understand definitive protocol changes in production processes designed to ensure their safety and that includes how they are traveled, locally transported, housed, and fed. Transparency and authorship will be critical to acceptance. And already, there is a fear that questioning any of those protocols might lead to discriminatory practices, i.e. replacing that person with someone willing to sign a waiver just for the opportunity of the job."
Both were asked to give a "how-to" on enhancing the traditional movie-making process towards virus mitigation.
Stefanick stressed, "Every production, no matter where it is located, must have an assigned, on-set, COVID-19 Czar whose primary responsibility is to know, understand, and implement "local" regulatory requirements as well as those required by their studio employer. They will require all personnel to take multiple tests, temperature checks, and wear masks and gloves. Social distancing would still apply. There will be strategically placed hand wash and sanitizer stations, all meals will be individually boxed and served, and all personnel will be required to self-quarantine for 7 days upon their arrival before reporting to the production offices."
Segars added, "All productions will have to implement a pod-like rotation. It is a specific and proven model that has been applied to a number of other sectors that have operated in epidemic-like hot zones. The basic strategy is to greatly reduce the number of people on stage at one time. Pods of lighting, rigging and set dressers will have to work separately and need not always intersect or remain on set when cameras roll. Video village cannot be on stage; it must be located off-site, and include multiple, separate monitors so individuals do not crowd around one. The need to adopt existing simple wireless technologies that can deliver the video village signal to personal devices, not just nearby but to anywhere in the world. Sound carts can be removed from the stage, ventilation with open stage doors and fans on for as long as possible between takes, and production office space seating and craft service seating must respect social distancing. Restrooms and common surfaces are to be cleaned hourly; we even need personnel to record who they met with or spoke with each day in case contact tracing needs to occur. The real challenge is that actors and stunt people cannot wear masks, and hair and make-up will have to be extremely vigilant in their protocols. Currently, there are other productions shooting, safely and securely in Germany and South Korea.
When pressed for an estimated cost, Segars said "the pod-based system requires shorter working hours and productivity is lower per day. It would not surprise me if it was 15% of the budget. However, the alternative is zero content in the pipeline and devastating unemployment."
OPSEC COVID-19 FACTS:
More people have COVID-19 than we know. This sounds alarming, but it is meant to be reassuring because that means the percentage of morbidity is lower. HOWEVER,
COVID-19 is more infectious due to asymptomatic spread and without identification and containment can and will spread through working groups big and small. Once identified strict contact tracing, testing, containment, quarantine protocols will be instituted and will average 7-10 days.
Most challenging beyond the asymptomatic spread, COVID-19 patients who do show symptoms are the MOST contagious one to two days PRIOR to symptom onset. Thus, temperature checks are not enough. Wide-spread testing is the only real solution.
COVID-19 testing is 75 days away from becoming easily available and providing more accurate results. Mitigation will require multiple testing protocols throughout the workplace weeks to ensure personnel are not asymptomatic carriers. Antibody/immunity tests are very limited and lack accuracy. More importantly, while it is expected that SARS-CoV-2 infection and the associated antibodies will provide some level of immunity, it remains highly unclear how complete that immunity will be against the virus and how long it will last. This will take over 100 days to properly determine.
There is no way to ensure 100% COVID-19 free capability in any workplace environment.
Thus, strict mitigation protocols unique to your industry must be designed, communicated, and practiced. Regulatory bodies will hold companies liable as well as individuals who don't follow requirements.
COVID-19 will slow in "summer," however early openings will exasperate that perceived decrease. New cases will continue to appear. Also, COVID-19 will continue to spread in the other hemisphere during their fall/winter THUS,
COVID-19 will reappear in the United States Nov 2020-March 2021. This will be accompanied by the influenza season. Our current social distancing - no large gatherings, and shelter in place protocols WILL be re-applied, however with more precision.
"Normalcy" will not return until there are two technological breakthroughs ? One: therapeutics, both anti-viral and antibody, to lessen symptoms and critical care impacts of COVID-19, must be made widely available. The approximate timeline is November 2020. Two: a vaccine must be made widely available (minimum 1 billion persons). Approximate timeline Jan. 2022.
Most importantly, global regulatory bodies will continue to consider COVID-19, a "must contain" virus until a vaccine is widely in use. Thus, anyone with identified infection and transmissions will be legally required to be quarantined and companies will be legally required and liable if they fail to apply 'local" best practices to identify and contain it. The adoption of best practices and the constant evolution of said practices will determine industries' ability to remain productive and insurable.
COVID-19 will be with us for the remainder of our lives and some mitigation will always have to be applied.
SOURCE OPSEC Alliance
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