General Hospital fans were thrilled with their favorite cast and crew were able to go back to work after months of being on hiatus. The COVID-19 pandemic was hard on the television industry, but it was especially hard on those who have spent decades of their lives watching their favorite shows five days a week, every week, all year. Soaps aren’t once a week shows. They’re not once a week shows that are then off the air for a week or two at Christmas or three or four months all summer. They’re five days a week, with the exception of a day or two here and there, and they’re always on. They’re like the news – always on – but far more entertaining. When the cast and crew from Port Charles were able to finally return to work, however, there were a lot of changes.
In addition to enhanced cleaning, disinfecting, and deep cleaning times on set, there are other big changes, too. The cast and crew cannot enter the building until they are given a COVID test at the door – every single day. Everyone is required to wear a mask at all times of the day, no matter where they are, unless they are filming. They have mere seconds to remove masks prior to the cameras beginning to roll, and they must go back on as soon as a scene is over. No one is being physically intimate on set anymore, either. No one is permitted to go within six feet of anyone else, and no one can hug, touch, visit, or socialize in any capacity. In their trailers they go, and that’s where they stay.
COVID professionals are on set at all times to make sure that everything is going according to plan. They do not allow anything to slide, anyone to make a mistake, or any detail to go unnoticed. If the show is not following protocol, the COVID pros have the right to stop production and make necessary changes.
The show is also doing a few replacements when necessary. Rather than stopping the show if one of the actors is positive, they’re getting creative with the way they film. When Kelly Monaco had some breathing issues earlier in the summer of 2020, she was temporarily replaced while she self-isolated and was sure to take as many negative COVID tests as possible. Another actress was asked to take her place and film her scenes for a few weeks while she was able to rest and recover, and that worked well for the show. It’s also something that fans are being asked to get used to for a time. If a new face pops up, it just means that the show must go on.
While everyone on the set is required to follow the new rules and the protocols, it doesn’t mean that they have to love everything that has changed. For instance, most all the cast and crew are sad that they can no longer socialize with one another. Many have been working together on the show for years – and not being able to hug a friend you haven’t seen in months is hard. Not being able to share lunch or grab a coffee or sit down between scenes to chat is difficult. Everyone misses one another. Being close to people and having relationships that allow for hand-holding, and hugs, and physical proximity to those you love and who make you feel good is so important to your own health and your own mental well-being, and those things have been determined unsafe and no longer permitted as a result of the COVID restrictions in place. Many of the cast and crew are struggling with this, with the constant testing, and with the major changes.
The hope is that these things will not go on much longer. The hope is that things will begin to return to normal at some point, and that things won’t be such a problem for them on set any longer. No one enjoys being required to stay away from their friends, no one enjoys being tested daily, and no one is enjoying the masks on all the time. However, the cast and crew are doing what they have to do to work, and they’re doing it with a smile. They know it’s not forever, and they’re focusing on the good things like being back at work and at least getting to entertain their fans – and right now, that’s all they can do.