A crew member on the upcoming Fox drama “NeXt” who tested positive for the novel coronavirus stayed on set for days despite exhibiting symptoms, and workers who came into contact with the infected person have since moved on to other shows.
According to three members of the crew who spoke with Variety, the affected crew member was showing symptoms as early as Saturday, Feb. 29. On that day, the crew member came into contact with multiple department heads on the show and was present onset during filming. That person returned to work on Monday, March 2 and was present onset and in the production offices through the end of filming on Wednesday, March 4. They were then hospitalized later that week and tested positive for coronavirus, or COVID-19.
After filming wrapped, many on the show who were not based in Chicago left the city, while others who are based in Chicago began work on other projects there before they became aware of the crew member’s diagnosis. Crew members on “NeXt” hailed from Los Angeles, New Orleans, Atlanta and elsewhere. “NeXt” shoots at the Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, home to multiple TV and film productions.
Sources say they first became aware of their potential exposure on Monday, March 9, when various cast and crew members began reaching out to each other to share the news. Several people are said to have contacted both Fox and 20th Century Fox Television, but the only response they received at that time was that the studio was “working on a memo” to address the issue. One person who spoke with Variety said they received calls from crew members working on another show in the Chicago area inquiring about rumors of an infection before they heard from the studio or network.
That memo, a copy of which was obtained by Variety, was issued on Tuesday, March 10. Sent from the office of Disney Television Studios president Craig Hunegs, the memo states in part:
“We have been notified by the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) that a crew member on the ‘NeXt’ production shooting in Chicago has tested positive for COVID-19 and is receiving treatment. The crew member is currently quarantined at a temporary residence in Chicago. The CDPH is working closely with us to identify and contact all individuals who came in direct contact with the crew member.”
The memo goes on to describe the symptoms of COVID-19 and reiterates measures like frequent hand washing and staying home if symptoms present themselves, with links to the CDC and WHO websites and an email address for a Disney HR rep. The memo can be read in its entirety below.
Representatives for 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment declined to comment for this story.
Those who spoke with Variety said they were very dissatisfied with the memo, as it is thus far the only contact they have gotten from the studio or network. All other information they have received has been what they have been able to glean from other people who were on the set. One person said they did not even receive the memo, but rather learned the news after reading it online.
Several individuals who worked on the show have now begun a self-imposed two-week quarantine, while others who went on to work on other shows have been sent home. That includes crew members working on the 20th TV pilots “Ordinary Joe,” an NBC project, and “The Big Leap,” a Fox project. Both of those pilots are set to film in Chicago. “The Big Leap” has not yet begun filming, while “Ordinary Joe” is filming and remains in production at the time of this publishing.
“It’s mostly confusion and silence at this point,” said one crew member, who voiced concern about the possibility of being an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19, and has since gone on to work on a different production in a different city. “I don’t think it was handled proactively. But it’s hard to pin too much of that on Disney when our entire country wasn’t all that proactive about it.”
“NeXt” does not currently have a premiere date on Fox but is slated to debut at midseason. It is a science-fiction crime drama created by Manny Coto. John Slattery stars as a brilliant but paranoid former tech CEO who joins a Homeland Cybersecurity Agent and her team to stop the world’s first artificial intelligence crisis.
NeXt Cast and Crew,
We have been notified by the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) that a crew member on the NeXt production shooting in Chicago has tested positive for COVID-19 and is receiving treatment. The crew member is currently quarantined at a temporary residence in Chicago. The CDPH is working closely with us to identify and contact all individuals who came in direct contact with the crew member.
The CDPH advises “Patients” who get sick with COVID-19 develop mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of:
– Difficulty breathing
If you are having any of these symptoms please contact your medical provider. The CDC believes at this time that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure.
As a reminder below are preventative means health officials are recommending people regularly use to care for themselves:
– Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
– Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
– Stay home when you are sick.
– Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
– Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
New details and recommendations are emerging daily, you can monitor the resources below for up-to-date information.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (https://www.cdc.gov/)
World Health Organization (WHO) (https://www.who.int/)
US Department of State Travel Advisories (https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html/)
President, Disney Television Studios
(Elaine Low contributed to this report)