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Coronavirus shuts down Riverdale season 4 production

Add the global spread of the coronavirus to the growing list of reasons to stay away from the darkly weird town of Riverdale.  

Riverdale, the CW's hit teen soap based on characters from the Archie Comics, has shut down production after Warner Bros. Television confirmed a member of the show's team had come in contact with someone testing positive for COVID-19, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Shooting in Vancouver, Riverdale season 4 was in the middle of production before filming was halted.

WBTV confirmed the shutdown in a statement, noting that they are "working closely" with Vancouver authorities and health agencies to identify all individuals who may have come into direct contact with the coronavirus-infected team member. The statement didn't specify whether the identified person was part of Riverdale's creative staff, production crew, or cast, but it did acknowledge that the "team member is currently receiving medical evaluation." The company continued, "The health and safety of our employees, casts and crews is always our top priority. We have and will continue to take precautions to protect everyone who works on our productions around the world."

The new that WBTV was suspending Riverdale's filming for an unspecified period "out of an abundance of caution" came only hours before the series newest episode, March 11's "Chapter Seventy-Three: The Locked Room," aired. The shutdown also happened the same day as the World Health Organization's announcement classifying the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic. 

At the time of WBTV's statement, the cast of Riverdale – including KJ Apa, Lili Reinhart, Camilla Mendes, and Cole Sprouse — were already scheduled to take a brief hiatus until April. Nonetheless, this continued delay could impact when season 4's remaining episodes film and air.

Coronavirus shut down Riverdale's Vancouver set, and could also have an impact in California

Riverdale films in Vancouver, Canada, where the local outlet Richmond News has reported there are 46 COVID-19 cases, with seven among them confirmed the same day the series halted its production. It's possible that one of those seven was in contact with the Riverdale team member that Warner Bros. Television identified, but the studio's statement ultimately didn't get into specifics about when people became aware of the contact between the infected person and Riverdale production staff. 

While the coronavirus incident took place in Canada, there are many who work on or visit the Vancouver set who reside elsewhere. The series directors often travel to and from places outside of British Columbia, as do the writers, whose office is located in Burbank, California — a mere 12 miles from the city of angels. That's where the Los Angeles Times reports local productions are voluntarily modifying their schedules over concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. This is despite no official order to shut down or limit on-location shooting, according to a production alert from FilmLA, the nonprofit group that handles film permits for both the city and Los Angeles county. 

According to a spokesperson for the nonprofit, the volume of on-location filming permits dropped between seven percent and eight percent over the same period last year, though they clarified that there's currently no explicit link between the drop in permits and the coronavirus. Still, many who work in the industry in Los Angeles and its surrounding areas like Burbank are taking extra precautions, with Hollywood unions canceling face-to-face meetings and some talent agencies asking people to work remotely.

Riverdale is just one among a growing list of TV and film productions affected by COVID-19

It's unclear when Riverdale may begin production again, but the popular teen soap is far from the only series affected by the spread of COVID-19. Over the last few days, several TV projects have delayed production due to a team member testing positive for the coronavirus or coming in close contact with someone else who did. 

Deadline reported that Disney+ halted its one-week Prague shoot for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which began Friday, March 7, over concerns of the pandemic's spread. This would mark the second time the series suspended production, as it was previously halted in January 2020 after Puerto Rico experienced two earthquakes before the series' two-week shoot on the island. A crew member on another Disney-related TV production, neXt, tested positive for COVID-19 while filming the series in Chicago, according to Variety

Production on two popular CBS network reality series has also recently been suspended, though, due to their nature, it should come as no surprise. The global reality series The Amazing Race and Survivor have shut down production for their upcoming seasons that were slated to begin filming this spring, as confirmed by USA Today.

While the number of TV productions impacted by coronavirus continues to remain relatively low, the same can't be said for the film industry. It's already the reason No Time To Die was delayed for eight months and could potentially delay the release of Black Widow. The amount of travel associated with filming, coupled with the rising number of confirmed cases in the U.S. and the quarantine orders in effect in countries overseas, could mean that more shutdowns and/or delays like Riverdale's are ahead.