A day in the life of a COVID-19 compliance officer

If we told you a year ago that a pandemic-specific compliance officer would be one of the fastest growing, most in-demand jobs, you’d probably have rolled your eyes.

But, with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to disrupt the lives of citizens around the globe, as it turns out, pandemic compliance officers have become an essential part of the world’s attempt at getting on with the new normal in the safest way possible.

Curious to know what it’s like to have such responsibility? We spoke to Marie Y. Lemelle, MBA, Founder and CEO of Platinum Star Media Group, who has recently undergone training to become a COVID-19 Compliance Officer in Hollywood.

Lemelle decided to go through the training so that she could provide that service on TV and film productions as well as photo shoots—something that hasn’t, in fact, halted in response to the pandemic.

Below, Lemelle is laying out exactly what a day in the life of a COVID-19 Compliance Offer looks like—and exactly what it means to enforce new safety regulations while ensuring the health and wellness of those around her.

Ladders: What is the most difficult part of being a compliance officer?

Marie Y. Lemelle: Before the director says “Action,” I am sanitizing, taking temperatures, checking safety equipment supplies, proper use of face masks, and giving distancing instructions. 

“Policing” the behavior of adults is never easy even if it means life, illness, or death. As a reliable source of regulatory information for the client/production, even when that information rapidly changes, it is my responsibility to raise the awareness with signage and implement the rules for safety.

Working in conjunction with the set design, I have to be sure that the set is disinfected especially between takes, which can be frustrating for the director and key crew members.

Set Safety Standards are constantly changing and vary from city to city, state to state, and countries. To stay informed, I subscribe to the CDC, the city and state government, and the local public health agency to be current on COVID related activities, mandates, and information.

I am also required to maintain appropriate documentation and ensure the use of HIPAA-compliant communication to safeguard individual’s privacy. 

Last but not least, I have to account for an adequate amount of PPE supplies, ensure everyone is wearing their PPE properly and have security processes in place to protect PPE from theft.

Ladders: What is the most rewarding part of the job?

Lemelle: It’s rewarding to know that I am making a difference by making a contribution to the safety of the cast and crew, as well as members of their household. Additionally, the opportunity to answer questions about the coronavirus and educate people about the precautions that are implemented on set to ensure a successful production without incident or shutdown.

Ladders: What newly implemented practices do you think will remain after the pandemic ends?

Lemelle: Since the coronavirus is not likely to be completely eliminated, think of flu season and especially the anticipation that the virus will mutate and come back seasonally, the practice of washing hands frequently, not touching your face and wearing a mask may remain.

The additional option may be taking daily temperature readings to inform the individual that they have a fever and should go home or see a medical expert, whether it is COVID-19 or some other illness that could be contagious.

Ladders: Do you have any interesting stories or anecdotes from your experience so far?

Lemelle: Masquerade parties and Halloween gives us an opportunity to wear custom masks so you would think there would not be so much push back to wear a face mask in public, especially on a TV, Film or Music production.

Well think again! From actresses who are concerned that their makeup would be ruined to a director who insists on wearing his USC mask even though it had not been washed in days.

I had to literally hide it and hand it to his assistant to be laundered! The rule of thumb is to wear a fresh, clean mask daily or wash the reusable mask at the end of the day. I keep a fabric sanitizer, just in case!

One actor was concerned that no one would recognize him and he didn’t want to be confused as an extra! It’s not easy being a killjoy but it’s better than allowing a virus to land you in the hospital or worse!

Ladders: What is the one thing you want people to know about life as a COVID compliance officer?

Lemelle: Think safety first for everyone and set a good example by walking the walk, not just talking. While I appreciate people sharing their medical worries, COVID-19 Compliance Officers are not the set medics so if you need medical attention on set unrelated to the various symptoms associated with the coronavirus or have other medical challenges, see your healthcare provider or the medic on duty on set.