Los Angeles reversed the planned closure of a downtown coronavirus testing site, after the news that the center would be closed because of a film shoot for the remake of the popular teen comedy She’s All That was met with widespread uproar.
Eric Garcetti, the Los Angeles mayor, confirmed on Twitter late on Monday night that the Covid-19 testing center at Union Station in downtown would remain open.
More than 500 people who were scheduled to get a coronavirus test at the center on Tuesday had received a series of conflicting messages, first cancelling and then reinstating their appointment for tests, according to the mayor’s office.
In a statement, the mayor’s office said officials had learned of the closure of the testing site on Monday, and that “as soon as this was brought to our attention”, the city first contacted the 504 people affected by the closure to let them know that they could use their appointment for a test at any other testing location. In a tweet sent after midnight, the mayor announced that the Union Station testing site would in fact remain open, and that residents could get their tests “as originally planned”.
“The property management company for Union Station notified the mayor’s office that the Covid-19 testing kiosk there would need to close due to a film shoot. As soon as this was brought to our attention, we began efforts to reopen it,” said Andrea Garcia, a spokeswoman for the mayor, in another statement on Tuesday.
The film shoot in question was Miramax’s reboot of the popular 1999 teen movie She’s All That, now starring the TikTok influencer Addison Rae Easterling.
He’s All That will feature Easterling as an influencer who makes a bet she can transform a school loser into the prom king. Easterling has 70 million followers and is estimated to be one of TikTok’s highest earners.
The movie received a permit to film on location at Los Angeles’ Union Station on 1 December. FilmLA, which handles location permitting for the city of Los Angeles, said that a cast and crew of about 170 people was expected on site, and that the permitting organization had not initially been aware that there was a coronavirus testing site at the location.
On Monday afternoon, a local homelessness advocacy group posted on Twitter about an email from Curative, the company that runs Covid-19 testing for Los Angeles, saying that the company had to cancel all tests at the Union Station on Monday “due to an event being held at this location”.
“We know this is a huge inconvenience and again apologize for the delayed notification!” the email read.
KTown for All’s furious tweet about Los Angeles cancelling coronavirus tests for a film shoot “in the middle of a horrible and terrifying Covid spike” quickly went viral.
The group said in a statement that the incident was not surprising, criticizing Los Angeles as “a city that says it is extremely concerned about the spread of Covid-19, and yet actively infringes day after day on the safety and health of its most vulnerable citizens.”
The group, as well as other local activists, argued the attempt to shutter the Union Station coronavirus testing location for a day at the height of the pandemic was particularly egregious, since it was one of the walk-up testing locations most accessible to people who use public transit. Many of Los Angeles’ largest testing locations are only accessible to people in cars.
Coronavirus cases in Los Angeles are rising so fast that local officials have imposed sweeping restrictions, including barring residents from gathering with people outside their immediate households, even as they consider reinstating a full stay-at-home order.
The public anger over the choice to prioritize a Hollywood film studio and a TikTok influencer over Angelenos seeking coronavirus testing comes as Garcetti is being considered for a prominent role in Joe Biden’s administration, perhaps as the secretary of transportation or housing and urban development, according to news reports.
Local progressive activists, who have been protesting outside Garcetti’s house for the past week to make clear they do not think he deserves a national political role, are now mocking the mayor using memes from She’s All That, including a revised film poster with Garcetti’s face and the slogan, He’s Not All That.
It’s not the first time that prominent Los Angeles TikTok influencers have been at the center of coronavirus-related controversy. In August, Garcetti ordered the power cut off at a Los Angeles mansion where TikTok content creators had been holding big parties despite the pandemic, and in defiance of public health orders, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Bryce Hall, another TikToker and YouTuber who is dating Addison Rae Easterling, was one of the most prominent residents of the house where the mayor reportedly cut off power.
Easterling did not immediately respond to comments on Twitter about the testing site closure.
A spokesperson for FilmLA said on Monday night, ahead of the mayor’s announcement, that “production reps for the film” had offered to find a way to “restore access to the testing site” after they had been “made aware of the testing site closure”.
A spokesperson for Miramax said the film company had not requested for the coronavirus testing center to be closed, and said that once it learned of the disruption, it asked that services be resumed.
The filming did not take place not near the testing kiosks, the Miramax spokesperson said.
Los Angeles was expected to conduct a total of 38,000 coronavirus tests on Tuesday across multiple locations, including at least seven other walk-up testing sites, a spokesperson for the mayor said.