Julie Chen Explains How Big Brother All-Stars Is Handling the COVID-19 Pandemic
Season 22 of the competition series premieres Wednesday on CBS
The hit CBS competition show returns for its second All-Stars installment on Wednesday, and potential houseguests are currently undergoing a quarantine and COVID-19 testing phase to determine who's eligible to participate in the production.
For the first time ever, the cast will be revealed during the live two-hour season premiere.
"As we speak right now, they're quarantining by themselves in homes that we've rented for them," Chen recently told Entertainment Tonight. "They're getting tested every few days. They will go in once they've been clean and clear for at least 14 days and then even once they get in the house, they're still going to be tested. They have no contact with anyone."
This season, Chen, 50, will not be visiting the Big Brother house at all. Additionally, there will be no live audience, and all groceries delivered to guests will be disinfected in advance.
"I'm doing testing. I'm doing testing again and then I'm going to do more testing," Chen said. "I'll be farther than ever from the houseguests as they get evicted. No hugs, not even a Chenbot handshake."
"There's too much on the line to not go above and beyond the protocol to make sure everyone is safe," she continued.
As for crew working behind-the-scenes on the show, executive producer Rich Meehan told ET that staffers are working in pods.
"Those pods basically stay together and don't cross-mingle with any other pods," he said. "No one is living on the compound. So people are going home at the end of their shift."
Added Chen, "If you ask me, once you're in the Big Brother house, it might be one of the safest places to be."
Last week, CBS announced that the show will debut its 22nd season with a cast of familiar faces, including previous winners, legends and memorable personalities. Given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the production "will follow specific health and safety protocols," according to a press release, "with the welfare of everyone involved as the highest priority."
In order to ensure that the house will have enough contestants, production has compiled both a core potential cast list, along with a list of alternates, according to the New York Post. If a contestant from the core list tests positive for COVID-19, an alternative will step into the game.
Big Brother All-Stars premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.