COVID source callout: What, exactly, are the Bachelor’s COVID-19 safety protocols?

Twitter user @tay_kass captioned this image, “the moment Zach realized he had COVID.” I don’t disagree!

This week, the Bachelor tested positive for COVID-19. As both an avid watcher of the franchise and a COVID-19 reporter, I was immediately curious to see how the production would handle this. Unfortunately, the show was pretty sparse on safety details.

Now, I understand why Bachelor producers and the higher-ups at ABC may not want to spend much of their episode time on the logistics of PCR tests or contestant quarantines. But I think they missed an opportunity here to show the viewers exactly what goes into COVID-19 safety on a high-budget TV show like the Bachelor.

Film and TV sets tend to have rigorous safety protocols (with regular testing, masking for production teams, etc.), and could serve as models for other settings. The Bachelor could have shown millions of viewers what that looks like; instead, the lead’s COVID-19 case is mostly framed as a bummer for the women who were supposed to go on dates with him.

With that in mind, here are a few things we know (and don’t know) about how the Bachelor handled this COVID-19 case, based on the episode itself and this interview on Entertainment Weekly:

  • Show lead Zach Shallcross isolated in his hotel room after testing positive. He’d already skipped a group date earlier in the day when he started to experience symptoms, but it’s unclear if he was actually isolating at that point (there might have been a camera person or two in his hotel room?).
  • All of the contestants get tested on a daily basis. Unclear if these are PCR or at-home/rapid tests, though my guess is PCR given that the production apparently had to wait some time for Zach’s test results after he started to not feel well.
  • The day before he tested positive, Zach went on a one-on-one date with contestant Gabi Elnicki. According to the EW interview, Gabi was “tested multiple times” immediately following Zach’s positive test, and got her own hotel room. This doesn’t appear to have been a full quarantine, though.
  • The other contestants seemed to have gotten lucky, to a certain extent, because Zach’s COVID-19 case occurred right after travel to London—so no other contestants had been exposed to him.
  • Zach’s symptoms were fairly mild, to the point that the production held a remote cocktail party and rose ceremony with him in his hotel room (i.e. he talked to contestants and then identified those who will stay for the next week over Zoom).
  • In next week’s episode, Zach will go on more dates, per the EW interview, so I assume he will have “recovered” enough to leave isolation. Will that mean his symptoms resolving, a negative rapid test, or just waiting a few days? It’s currently unclear.
  • The entire cast and crew of the Bachelor was fully vaccinated. Of course, this doesn’t prevent infection or transmission, but it could’ve played some role in keeping this one case from becoming an outbreak. It also seems like crew members are usually masked on set, though I could just be extrapolating based on a few shots we’ve seen of producers.

As you can see, there are a lot of gaps in what we know about COVID-19 safety measures on the Bachelor… and I doubt those gaps will be filled, given what the production seems to prioritize in its airtime. If any editors reading this want to give me an assignment to investigate further, I am available.

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