CNN closes offices – again – due to COVID

If you happened to be watching CNN this morning, you might have noticed something different about the look and feel of the set. After months of having mostly gone back to their “normal” routines, with anchors sitting at studio desks and correspondents interviewing people in person, the news crew was back to largely virtual broadcasting. The morning hosts were clearly sitting in front of green screens with backgrounds that didn’t match. Interview subjects were greeted via video calls from their homes or other distant locations, as were many of the CNN correspondents. Their meteorologist did appear to be in the studio (I think) but she seemed to be almost entirely by herself. The one early exception was the Inside Politics show, where it looked as if they had four people without masks gathered at a table, but that segment may have been prerecorded yesterday before the order came out. The reason turned out to be exactly what you might have expected. With COVID numbers rising again, CNN closed its offices yesterday to all “nonessential workers” and sent most of the on-air staff back to their homes. Only the people responsible for keeping the actual broadcast equipment up and running were allowed into the buildings. (NY Post)

CNN is closing its offices to nonessential workers in a return to early pandemic shutdown measures, the cable station announced Saturday.

Only employees who must work onsite will be allowed in US offices and must be masked up, CNN President Jeff Zucker said in a memo to workers.

“We are doing this out of an abundance of caution,” Zucker said in the memo, which was shared with Reuters. “And it will also protect those who will be in the office by minimizing the number of people who are there.”

Jeff Zucker added that all of the essential workers who were allowed into the building had to be masked and remain socially distant from their other essential colleagues. And nobody was allowed on the premises (or even on the payroll) without proof of vaccination. They actually fired three people over the summer who refused to comply.

It’s as if we’re back to one year ago at the height of the pandemic with no vaccines approved for general distribution yet. And it’s reportedly being done in response to the increasing spread of the Omicron variant. Let’s keep in mind that we’ve still only heard of one person diagnosed with Omicron in the UK who died, and even in that case, doctors were “unable to determine whether it was the cause of death.” As of Wednesday, only ten people with Omicron were hospitalized in the entire country.

If we’re to take Zucker at his word, every single employee of CNN is vaccinated. But it certainly doesn’t sound as if they have much faith in those vaccines. One study after another has been indicating that the new variant produces mostly “mild symptoms,” even among the unvaccinated. The vaccinated should be able to shrug this off, shouldn’t they? And after they do, they will presumably have additional, natural antibodies specific to the variant.

Doesn’t it seem as if shutting down the entire network to nonessential workers is a bit of an overreaction? I’ve honestly given up on trying to determine when either government actors or the news media are suggesting reasonable measures or simply engaging in more pandemic panic pornography to keep people frightened.

CNN wasn’t the only operation struggling with how to keep the show going without looking like they were flouting the rules. Saturday Night Live went on the air last night, but there was no live audience, the musical guest canceled on them and several of the cast members were out after testing positive. I didn’t watch the actual show (as usual) but I did watch some of the clips from it this morning. It was all just so weird. When they got to their “Weekend Update” segment, they didn’t use the normal news anchor set. Instead, Tina Fey and Michael Che sat on the main stage in folding chairs (that did not seem to be six feet apart) sans masks and performed for an “audience” made up of Tom Hanks and a couple of other cast members. Here’s the video of that segment. It was just all so very odd. NBC is taking this all so very seriously… except when they’re not.

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