A crew member who worked on “FBI: Most Wanted” has tested positive for COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, Variety has learned, and some who worked on the production are upset that they were not told earlier, ahead of the test results being received, so they could take precautionary measures against the respiratory illness.
According the NBCU memo obtained by Variety, the affected individual — whose identity has not been released for medical confidentiality reasons — received a positive diagnosis on Wednesday, March 18. This person had not been on the set of “FBI: Most Wanted” since Wednesday, March 11, and “had already recovered from a mild case by the time the test results came back today.” The memo, dated Wednesday, was emailed to the cast and crew the morning of Thursday, March 19.
Production on “FBI: Most Wanted” shut down abruptly after March 12, in tandem with the across-the-board hiatus that NBCU mandated, in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Dozens of productions across the major studios have been put on hold while the public weathers the outbreak.
“We consulted with medical experts who have informed us that the risk level of transmission is low given that the employee did not return to work after becoming symptomatic,” reads the Universal TV memo. “Even with low risk assessment, out of an abundance of caution, we took the step of identifying and reaching out to the handful of employees who had been in close proximity to the affected individual on their last day at the office.”
“FBI: Most Wanted” director Lexi Alexander said NBCU reached out to her on Wednesday, as she was one of the six to 10 people the studio believed the affected individual had had contact with on set. She was “furious” with the information she was given by human resources, who told her that as long as she was not showing symptoms by then, she was “probably fine.” COVID-19 can be transmitted asymptomatically.
“Even if they just had a suspicion why didn’t they tell us before we all flew home?” Alexander told Variety. “If they would’ve told there us there was a suspicion, I would’ve isolated myself.”
She is concerned about asymptomatic transmission. On the last day of production alone, Alexander — who says she is “not a director who hides behind the monitor” — estimated that she was in contact with 80 to 90 people on set, from stunt people to the SWAT team to craft services.
A Human Resource person just called to tell me that someone on the crew of my last job tested positive for Covid 19. Then she casually told me not to worry that I’m probably not infected. I’m furious…and as so many times in this industry, I don’t know who to turn to.
— Lexi Alexander (@Lexialex) March 18, 2020
NBCU provided production members with a hotline to a clinical support partner that they can call, and advised them to reach out directly to their own medical providers for guidance, should they feel ill. The studio said its goal is “to keep you informed without creating unnecessary panic.”
A separate source who worked on the show, but did not want to be named out of fear of professional retaliation, was upset to learn of the news from Twitter, and said that it was “impossible” that a crew member would have only been in contact with only six to 10 people, given the nature of TV production. The underlying concern is that even if the affected individual had only been in contact with a handful of others, those people would then have been in contact with any number of the dozens of other cast and crew members on set, and transmitted the illness asymptomatically.
“FBI: Most Wanted” is not the only production to have a cast or crew member receive a diagnosis of COVID-19. Daniel Dae Kim, who has spent the past few weeks filming on NBC’s “New Amsterdam,” revealed Thursday a diagnosis, pleading with the public to take the crisis seriously.
And a crew member on Disney-produced “NeXt” remained on set for days, despite exhibiting symptoms. Those who spoke with Variety would only do so on background, out of concern for receiving backlash.
“For us to be scared [of professional retaliation] in the midst of a pandemic is really a thing,” said Alexander, adding “We should be an example and not do exactly as this administration does. It’s really about saving lives.”