“My team has worked to reopen testing at Union Station on Tuesday,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) said in an early-morning tweet Tuesday. “The 504 Angelenos who were scheduled for a test there can visit the kiosk as originally planned or any of the other 14 City sites, where we offer 38K tests daily.”
The reversal came after swift backlash from residents who questioned the city’s leadership for putting the filming of a rom-com ahead of the health and safety of its citizens.
The remake, “He’s All That,” will continue filming while testing is happening Tuesday, according to Deadline, the first to report the story. The Miramax movie starring TikTok personality Addison Rae, which was granted a permit to film by FilmLA, was expected to have a cast and crew of about 170 people at Union Station on Tuesday, Deadline reported.
The outlet reported that Curative, the company that operates the testing site, originally felt the production would make for a disruptive environment in which social distancing would be too difficult to enforce. Representatives for Curative did not immediately return a request for comment.
The drama playing out at one of the city’s busiest testing sites comes amid a record-breaking stretch of coronavirus cases for Los Angeles County. The county is under new stay-at-home restrictions from the nearly 25,000 new cases in the last week, the most of any county in the United States, according to The Washington Post’s coronavirus tracker. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported 5,150 new cases of the coronavirus on Monday, and a record-breaking 2,185 hospitalizations in the county.
Word of the testing site’s temporary closure started to spread online Monday after a copy of an email sent by Curative was shared by the Los Angeles homeless advocacy group Ktown For All. In the notice, Curative expressed regret in telling 504 people with Tuesday appointments at Union Station that their scheduled tests had been canceled.
“We apologize for the inconvenience and delayed notification but LA Union Station Kiosk site has had to cancel all appointments for December 1st due to an event being held at this location,” the company wrote. “We know this is a huge convenience and again apologize for the delayed notification!”
The reasoning for why the site needed to be closed for the day would soon come to light: Union Station was needed to film the remake of the 1999 movie starring Freddie Prinze Jr. and Rachael Leigh Cook about a guy who boasts how he can make any girl in school popular.
The Union Station site tests an average of 350 to 400 people daily, accounting for about 1 percent of the city’s total tests. Its popularity as a testing site stems from it being one of the only transit-accessible locations in the area.
With the county in the middle of a record-breaking spike in coronavirus cases, the news came as a surprise to Garcetti, whose office said it had only learned of the delay earlier Monday. The same went for FilmLA, the group that processes film permit applications. Philip Sokoloski, a spokesman for FilmLA, told the Los Angeles Times that the company wasn’t sure who decided that the testing center at Union Station would be shuttered during filming.
“All we know at this hour is that this decision wasn’t made by FilmLA or the City’s film permit approver LAPD, nor was it sought by the production company seeking to film at Union Station,” Sokoloski said.
Before Garcetti’s announcement, Sokoloski told the Times that he was optimistic that “the two uses of the facility may be compatible” to allow for hundreds to be tested for the virus on Tuesday.
Critics like Ktown For All spokesman Devon Manney told the New York Times that the process getting to the point it did was a slap in the face for residents who’ve had to rely on public transportation to travel to Union Station to be tested for a virus that is crippling the city.
“This is the L.A. that we are constantly fighting against,” Manney said.