SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Coronavirus rolled into the United States determined to infect everyone and everything it could. At the time, no one really understood how to fight the virus, and as a safety reaction, everything was shut down.
Utah’s movie industry came to a standstill, as well as everything else in the state and most of the country.
Then people and businesses began to adapt.
Jeff Midgley, the owner of TNT First Aid and Lab to You, is one business owner that, when he decided to evolve, the decision created a platform that helped get Utah’s and the rest of the film industry rolling again.
Many people give him credit for being instrumental in creating a working model for safe practices helping the film industry all over the country. If you ask him, he says: “I think they’re generous with that, everyone went to work feverishly with how do we safely resume production. We just happened to be the person everyone knew and trusted.”
The hardship of the shutdown caused Midgley to think outside his normal box.
“We started the lab because we were going broke, there were no productions shooting, every other aspect of our business was basically shut down, servicing first aid cabinets, all of our CPR classes stopped, the films we were working on as medics all came to a screeching halt,” says Midgely. “Every aspect of our business was basically gone with social distancing.”
Lab to You began simply and evolved quickly. The mobile lab started on healthy people, and that was enough to get the pathway started for the film industry to get their cameras back on.
“We started with a basic screener, if people had symptoms, they weren’t allowed at work, from there it evolved into creating COVID compliance officers, It’s a brand new position in the film industry.”
Lab to You pioneered the COVID Compliance Officer on a set. The person who made sure there were masks, sanitizer, Midgley, explains they had to change people’s roles, learn how to figure out social distancing, figure out how to add zones in, the zones help keep cross-contamination at a minimum from department to department.
“We’re everything COVID, we started our lab back in June…by August, we were up and going with our BD Veritor, which was one of the first rapid machines, BD Veritor has been around for rapid strep and rapid flu testing for a long time, it just took them to that point to have the COVID cartridges. All of this was in response to the film industry’s demand for testing.”
COVID-19 compliance has come a long way in a year. Now Lab to You also uses foggers to disinfect sets. Every night after a set wraps, they bring in their foggers to disinfect the entire set. There are a lot of small surfaces on film sets, from lighting mounts, to what is called a C-stand that allows for the impromptu mounting and hanging of different devices.”
Midgley says, “We could clean better that way than we could with, say, Lysol wipes. We started the whole fogging for the film industry, and it worked! We made things safe. We worked 1,000 days on sets; sometimes we had 10-12 medics per day working, we worked 1,000 days on set without a single case of COVID, it wasn’t until we had the larger productions in here we had a COVID case on the set.”
Midgley explains they expanded to testing other people, “Back around Christmas time, we were doing hundreds of tests a day, people wanting to go be around Grandpa and Grandma, have some normalcy for Christmas. Even at that time, you couldn’t get tested unless you were symptomatic, so those people flocked to our locations and received their tests.”
Currently, the company is handling safety and compliance on Real Housewives of Salt Lake. Naturally, everyone would expect some drama from the housewives. Still, Midgley says, “What you see, and it’s always been like this with talent, is not what you see behind the scenes, and this might be one of the most extreme cases, the talent on camera and off camera are different. I’ve been shocked getting to know the cast of Real Housewives of Salt Lake and their families because we test the entire family, not just the cast. and really just some good people right here in Salt Lake.”
For RHOSL, they do concierge testing; they don’t test on set. They test the family at home, including the children. They are very cautious to keep COVID away from the set. Midgley says, “We go out to each talent’s house and test the entire family, and if they have a maid, we test the maid. It’s pretty extensive testing to make sure we don’t bring it to the set. If we bring it to the set, we have a shutdown.”
It’s a kind of interdiction mission – check before it gets to the set. With the television show, it’s going out to ensure the entire family is staying healthy. Jeff says Warner Bros. has been exceptional at trying to keep everyone safe. WB is the only company that says let’s test the whole home.
Other companies are now asking Lab to You to help keep their employees safe. Midgley says some are doing it weekly, and he thinks it’s a very good idea for companies in other economic sectors to adopt the film industry’s strict standards. When companies test like the film industry it keeps production running.
The businesses are both looking out for their employee and the bottom line by not having to shut down because of an outbreak.
Midgley says, “You catch it early that’s the biggest thing, continual testing, we found that out with the film industry, we can track, we can create patterns of what goes on within our organization, by testing on a regular basis.”
“We’ve had several cases where we catch one person, that has it, we can do contact tracing within that department or that group and we can say okay, all of the camera people worked in close contact even though they had masks on, longer than 15 minutes, let’s give all of you a few days off, and hopefully nip this in the bud, right there at the camera department.”
Isolating a department when there is a set with 200 people on it or a business with the same amount of employees is smart.
Lab To You’s logic? If you don’t, you can really quickly have 200 people infected, then their families, the virus that goes to the community, into the restaurants, you can quickly have a super spreader event out of a business, a film set, or a large family
Midgley adds “Look at cruise ships when this all first started. Any time we have those gatherings we potentially create a super spreader event. By testing periodically we can stop that at small groups”