Cinespace worker tests positive for coronavirus

North Lawndale studio disinfects to protect film crews

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By PASCAL SABINO

Block Club Chicago

A film crew member working on a TV show filming at Cinespace Film Studios on the West Side has tested positive for coronavirus, public health officials confirmed.

The worker was working on the set of the upcoming FOX show "NeXt," which wrapped production of its first season last week at the studios, 2621 W. 15th Place. Despite fear of exposure to the highly contagious virus, Cinespace officials said the film studio will remain open and operational. They are disinfecting production offices and sound stages in wake of the news, they said.

"FOX and the other tenants at our facility have confirmed that they took immediate action and began disinfecting their production offices and stages. In addition to our tenant's efforts, last night, we brought in added cleaning crews to deep clean all common areas," the statement said.

Cinespace Chicago is the center of Chicago's film industry where several other shows, including "Chicago Fire," "Chicago P.D.," "Chicago Med," and "Empire" are filmed.

Officials at the Chicago Department of Public Health are working with Cinespace shows to identify any individuals who came into contact with the sick employee.

Some tenants renting sound stages have sent their crew members home for now. DePaul University, which uses a studio there to train students, has canceled classes at the studio until Wednesday, even though DePaul's classes did not share common areas with crew members working on "NeXt."

"In the interest of taking preventive measures, Cinespace, including DePaul's facilities, are undergoing a deep cleaning," DePaul spokeswoman Carol Hughes said. "Faculty members will be in touch with students to let them know of any changes in class schedules and locations."

According to a crew member working on "Empire," several productions share common spaces with the crew of "NeXt," including "Chicago Fire," "Chicago Med," and "Chicago P.D." Those employees are the most worried about the virus, she said.

"It makes us all worried because we use communal bathrooms, and people go between offices to talk. That's what makes this nerve-wracking. How are we going to protect ourselves?" she said.

The studios have been proactive, the worker said, raising awareness about prevention for weeks by putting up posters and encouraging hand-washing. Employees feeling sick have been told to stay home from work.

Although Cinespace will remain open for now, some people who work at the film studios are afraid the virus will spread.

"That's just sad news. … it creates this obsession," one woman working at the film studios said. She was sent home early from her job after learning of the new case. "We don't know when the next person can get it."

The Independent Film Alliance, also based at Cinespace, recommended all workers follow the Center for Disease Control's guidelines for preventing the disease.

"We are monitoring the situation closely," said Angie Gaffney, executive director of Independent Film Alliance Chicago. "As of right now, our offices and workspace remain open and fully operational."

Just blocks away from CineSpace, Sinai Health System has been ramping up its efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus on the West Side. The hospital plans to launch a new webpage accessible through the sinai.org site that will direct community members to information on what coronavirus is as well as instructional videos on how best to prevent it.

"As the coronavirus situation plays out, we want to be a resource to members of the community, to provide answers and mitigate some of the panic that some folks feel," said the hospital's spokesman Dan Regan. "The major message that we want to get out to people is that the best thing that people can do is take preventative actions."

At a Tuesday press conference responding to the spread of the virus, public health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady recommended that Chicagoans continue to follow common-sense preventative measures to control the spread of the disease, like washing hands and avoiding touching the face, and also recommended that individuals avoid large gatherings.

"This is about thinking ahead, doing what you can to have the things in place to allow you to be healthy, avoiding these large gatherings," she said.

Read more Block Club Chicago here.

CONTACT: pascal@blockclubchi.org

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