If you’ve read some of my other posts, you know of my “day job.” For 20 years, a mobile broadcast engineer. My job entails the maintenance and set up of large mobile production trailers, providing the “control room” for high level live event broadcasts–mostly sports. I’ve seen a lot over 20 years working out on the road for my job, but like everyone else–never trying to work through a global pandemic.
Even though I get to see a lot of the United States (and Canada) on a regular basis, I am very community centered to my hometown of Doylestown, PA (north of Philadelphia). This brings with it many perspectives that others who live and work local don’t get personal experience with, and I feel it has helped me a lot in understanding the real world challenges of this pandemic. I would like to share these experiences with you.
Although I have over a million miles in the air over 20 years, coming back to it after 5 months away from it during COVID–well, it feels different. What was once no big deal to pack into a small tube with other humans and sit close together for hours—very uneasy feeling now. Masks are an absolute requirement–no exceptions. A few airlines, several months into this, are still doing their best to have social distancing, like eliminating middle seat passengers. I have a lot of “kudos” to give to Delta Airlines for really taking this seriously despite the financial hit it must be for them. We no longer board by zone, but from back to front of plane, to reduce having to brush by a lot of people. I like this arrangement, and hope back to front boarding continues after this is over.
As I write this, I just ended week four of this weekly show. Still haven’t been to a hotel that has regular service amenities. Breakfast is pre packaged “grab and go.” No buffet style morning eggs. Housekeeping won’t clean your room unless you ask them to. Room service? Have yet to see it. With restrictions on hotel restaurants, along with not many traveling–not enough people to support having regular food service. Masks are required everywhere in the hotel public areas, as is social distancing. It’s suggested to have a max of two unrelated people in an elevator. I’m happy I like taking stairs when I can.
My work schedule for this weekly show is as follows. Every week this fall through the college football season:
–Monday AM: With the kit they sent to my house–spit in a tube. Then mail it out that morning via a Fed Ex Priority Box. In previous weeks I had to fly out to the hotel on Wednesdays and get a cotton swab deep up my nose. I prefer the spit test.
–Thursday AM: Fly out to the location. (Provided my test came back as negative). If need be, I can get a quick test on site when I arrive. But I MUST be deemed “negative” in order to arrive on the work site. No exceptions.
–Fridays: Arrive on site at the stadium to set up. Finally what feels like a “normal work day.” I say that in quotes because things are certainly different now. What would have been two large tractor-trailers is now four. These trailers are normally packed with people sitting very close together for hours on end. Not the best thing to do now. So additional space is brought out to “spread out.” Since specific people work in a specific trailer, this client has set up work zones to limit people to certain areas, to keep the number of people circulating around the area to a minimum. We even have separate Porta John facilities to reduce the chance of spread. All stations have wash stations. Below are some of the signage placed around the TV compound.
–Saturdays: Game time! Traditional game coverage. Depending on location, various amounts of crowd, but as far as I’ve seen, no more than 20% stadium capacity. And the traditional tail-gating, pre-party scenes have been non existent.
After the game, the two hour strike (pack up) commences.
–Sundays: Fly home.
So, how has it been with COVID in this line of work? So far, on my particular crew, there have been no issues. No positive tests–everyone being cautious. But that’s the TV crew. Week 3, after we did Florida at Texas A&M: 22 Florida players tested positive, delaying their next game. None of our crew was affected fortunately, but it drives the point home to you for sure. Be careful.
In other TV crews working sports similar to this (ie. not in a “bubble,”) there have been some positive tests to crew. This just tells me that this is nothing to mess around with. Just be careful out there, and take this pandemic seriously.