Los Angeles authorities have warned that the US entertainment capital is in the middle of an “unprecedented and dangerous surge” in coronavirus cases, forcing the city into extreme lockdown measures and the postponement of the annual Grammy Awards.
Tuesday’s decision to postpone the music industry’s biggest night, originally scheduled for the end of the month, came a day after local ambulances were ordered not to transport patients with little chance of survival and to conserve oxygen because emergency rooms were being overwhelmed.
“We’re likely to experience the worst conditions in January that we’ve faced the entire pandemic — and that’s hard to imagine,” Barbara Ferrer, the Los Angeles county public health director, said on Monday.
The Grammys, more than any other Hollywood awards show, are centred around live performances, as the nominees take the stage to lure audiences. Artists Beyoncé, Dua Lipa and Taylor Swift were leading in nominations for awards this year.
The Recording Academy, the group that runs the Grammys, in November had declared that the show would be “happening, rain or shine, Covid-19 vaccine or not” on January 31.
But Los Angeles authorities said they have seen a dangerous post-Christmas spike in cases in recent days and already-full hospitals were becoming overwhelmed with the sick and dying.
“The deteriorating Covid situation in Los Angeles, with hospital services being overwhelmed, ICUs having reached capacity, and new guidance from state and local governments have all led us to conclude that postponing our show was the right thing to do,” the Recording Academy said in a statement.
The Los Angeles Times reported on Tuesday that California had shattered its one-day record in new cases with 74,000 infections, though that tally could be inflated by slow reporting over the holiday period. Los Angeles county was seeing a Covid-related death every eight minutes, the paper calculated.
Regular intensive care unit availability is at zero in southern California, a region that includes Los Angeles county and the San Joaquin Valley. The state health department on Tuesday attributed a further 368 deaths to coronavirus, among the biggest one-day increases in California’s death toll, and 31,440 new infections.
Los Angeles county health authorities have pleaded in recent weeks with the region’s entertainment industry to postpone television and movie productions because of the surge in infections.
Netflix had planned to start filming shows and movies in Los Angeles this week, but has postponed recording until at least mid-January, said a person familiar with the matter.
Hollywood’s most powerful labour unions, including the Screen Actors Guild and Producers Guild of America, this week recommended a halt to productions in Los Angeles until the outbreak dissipates.
“Southern California hospitals are facing a crisis the likes of which we have never seen before. Patients are dying in ambulances waiting for treatment because hospital emergency rooms are overwhelmed,” said Gabrielle Carteris, president of SAG-AFTRA. “This is not a safe environment for in-person production right now.”