SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher is doubling down on her concerns about Hollywood’s Covid-19 vaccination mandate, saying that “Help is on the way!” for those who refuse to be vaccinated in order to work because of their religious beliefs or preexisting health conditions.
“I continue to fight on behalf of our members who feel discriminated against because of the Covid unvaccinated or un-boosted status, which is keeping them from working in major studio productions,” she writes in the latest issue of the SAG-AFTRA Magazine. “For those members not being fairly considered by studios with regards to their religious or health exemptions, help is on the way!”
“As a result of this lingering policy, many performers have lost their representation, their medical benefits and their livelihoods,” she wrote, noting that the guild will soon be sending out a membership survey she proposed on this and other issues.
“We want to take the pulse of the entire member body on this issue and many more, so watch for the national SAG-AFTRA survey, and answer all the questions to help our National Board best represent you,” she wrote.
Drescher also clashed with members of her own ruling party about the efficacy of the vaccinations at a heated SAG-AFTRA national board meeting in July.
Hollywood’s Covid protocols, which in October were extended until Jan. 31, 2023 – per an agreement between the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers and Hollywood’s unions – gives employers the limited option to require Covid vaccinations as a condition of employment. The mandates, however, are “subject to reasonable accommodations as required by law for individuals who cannot be vaccinated due to disability or a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance.” Vaccination-mandate opponents, however, argue that those exceptions are too rarely allowed.
In August, Drescher wrote in the prior issue of the SAG-AFTRA Magazine that Hollywood’s Covid vaccination mandate “walks the razor’s edge of compromising religious, disability and body sovereignty freedoms.” At that time she also expressed “concern that giving employers the discretionary rights to decide which of us can or can’t work based on our medical history is a dangerous slippery slope. If an employer can decide you can’t work unless Covid vaccinated, what’s next, we can’t work without a monkeypox vaccine?”
“I fully understand and appreciate the importance the vaccine has played in the saving of lives during the early years of the pandemic,” she wrote in August. “I myself am vaccinated. And when it was added to the Return-to-Work Agreement (RTWA) last year, it certainly seemed like the right thing to do.”
She added, however, that “with thousands of unvaccinated members still unable to work, all new information begs review and consideration before deciding our position on the next RTWA. All I ask is we educate ourselves with the newest science and make an informed decision because members’ livelihoods hang in the balance.”
Despite her concerns, the mandates were extended anyway and Covid numbers are rising again, especially in L.A.
The county reported a daily total of 5,051 new cases on Wednesday, one of the biggest single-day tallies in months — and officials say that number is likely very low due to the prevalence of at-home tests, the results of which are not reported. A more accurate number, the 7-day average test positivity rose to 13.6% from 12.5% a week ago. Hospitalizations are also on the rise.
The increases threaten to put Los Angeles back into the CDC’s high community spread designation, which local health officials have said would trigger consideration of another universal indoor masking mandate.