A coronavirus testing site at Union Station was open for business Tuesday, following a cascade of criticism from activists who lashed out at the city and Mayor Eric Garcetti upon learning the site was set to be shuttered for the day, allegedly to accommodate a film shoot.
Garcetti announced on Twitter shortly after midnight that the site would be open during its normal hours. FilmLA, the nonprofit group that oversees film permits in the area, confirmed that a film crew was scheduled to be at Union Station on Tuesday, but said the closure of the testing site had no relation to the movie shoot.
“FilmLA did not, and never would, seek the closure of a city-operated COVID-19 testing center to accommodate filming,” according to the organization. “Neither we, the city permit authority or the production company asked or directed that this be done at Union Station.”
On Monday, the homeless advocacy group Ktown for All tweeted a copy of an email allegedly sent from the testing company to a resident who had an appointment for a test on Tuesday. The email explained that all testing appointments for Tuesday were canceled due to “an event being held at this location,” and that appointments would resume on Wednesday.
“In the middle of a horrible and terrifying COVID spike, LA just cancelled all of its Dec 1 appointments at Union Station (one of the only transit-accessible facilities) with less than 24hrs notice because of A FILM SHOOT!! @MayorOfLA @metrolosangeles @lapublichealth WTF???!!???” Ktown for All tweeted.
The shoot was for “He’s All That,” a film inspired by the 1999 romantic comedy “She’s All That” and featuring TikTok star Addison Rae, according to the Los Angeles Times, which cited the city and county’s film office.
According to FilmLA, news of the testing site closure began circulating around midday Monday. FilmLA confirmed that the operator of the testing site, Curative, had canceled all testing appointments for Tuesday and was working to reschedule them, “however this action was not taken at the request of anyone connected to the film production.”
According to the mayor’s office, the city immediately reached out to the people who had appointments scheduled at the location and told them their appointments would be honored at any other site overseen by the city. Meanwhile, efforts began to ensure the Union Station site opened as usual.
Garcetti’s Twitter announcement early Tuesday morning said, “Working with @LAFD, @Curative & @metrolosangeles, my team has worked to reopen testing at Union Station on Tuesday. The 504 Angelenos who were scheduled for a test there can visit the kiosk as originally planned or any of the other 14 City sites, where we offer 38K tests daily.”
Frustration over the issue was evident in public comments on Garcetti’s Twitter feed.
“It’s wild how we live in a city of 4 million people, where the only thing standing between the Mayor and decisions so stupid they literally kill people is a network of unpaid activists who let the rest of us know when to cyberbully you. Thanks @KtownforAll,” local writer Jelena Woehr tweeted.
“I sincerely can’t believe that this is not an Onion article, and you took 7 hours from the initial posting to say AT MIDNIGHT that tests (which shouldn’t have been closed to begin with) will be reopened,” artist Andrew Minghee Kim wrote.
“Why were the permits authorized in the 1st place? It’s a testing site not a book club meet-up. This will be your cross to bear and documented on your record as mayor. Bless your heart,” tweeted Angela Naomi.
Activists critical of the mayor began using the Twitter hashtag #HesNotAllThat — a play on the title of the movie being filmed at Union Station — in posts lashing out at Garcetti and the decision to close the testing site.
Garcetti has been the target of more than a week of demonstrations in front of his house by activists from Black Lives Matter and others who don’t want President-elect Joe Biden to name the mayor to his cabinet. They say Garcetti has a poor record of aiding the homeless and following through with local transportation projects, accusations the mayor’s team deny.
Los Angeles residents in need of a coronavirus test were encouraged to visit coronavirus.LACity.org/Testing.