Just days after Actors’ Equity Association urged members not to take jobs with Florida’s Walt Disney World until the resort agrees to provide COVID-19 testing, the amusement park reports that “tens of thousands of cast members” are preparing to return for the phased opening that begins July 11.
On the official Disney Parks Blog today, Laurel Slater, Manager of Communications, Walt Disney World Public Affairs, writes, “With just eight days until we reopen our first theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort, tens of thousands of cast members have been straightening up our nametags (and grabbing our face coverings!) as we begin to return to work. As we count down to the phased reopening of our theme parks, we’re looking forward to welcoming our fellow cast members home to begin training in preparation for reopening.”
The blog post – apparently the resort’s first public statement since Equity rejected its reopening safety plan for workers, also includes a video of cast members pouring into the park, wearing protective face masks, having their temperatures taken and expressing gratitude to be back at work. See the video below.
Neither the blog nor the video makes clear whether the returning cast members are non-union or affiliated with a union other than the New York-based Equity.
In addition to playing Disney characters, Cast Members (a Disney resorts term) includes employees who attend to rides and attractions, some security positions and retail jobs, among others.
In a tweet today responding to the video, Equity wrote, “If you are focusing on safety, we hope you will test performers, since there were 10,000 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday alone.” The tweet included the hashtag “$DIS.”
Florida’s Department of Heath reported yesterday that the state had set a daily record of 10,109 new coronavirus cases, bringing Florida’s total confirmed coronavirus cases to about 170,000. Sixty-seven new deaths were reported Thursday, bringing the state’s total to 3,617. Officials in Orange County, where Orlando is located, announced that all county-operated beaches will be closed throughout the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
According to Slater’s blog post, the resort is “dedicating thousands of hours to health and safety training because we know that it will take all of us working together to responsibly create the magic once again.” The amusement park’s website indicates that safety precautions will include enhanced cleanings, physical distancing, reduced contact and mandatory face coverings for all guests and cast members and possible temperature readings.
Equity has insisted that Walt Disney World add COVID testing to those precautions. In an email to its members on Wednesday, reported exclusively by Deadline, the union wrote, “Disney knows that testing makes for a safer work place. Why else would Disney agree to testing for film productions? If testing helps keep a film set safe, that is also true for performers in the parks. Despite that, we have not reached an agreement with Disney for testing.”
Deadline reached out to Walt Disney World but received no response.
Yesterday, both Walt Disney World in Orlando and Disneyland in California confirmed the indefinite suspension of their Disney College Program of internships and withdrew offers of employment to students previously made through the program, in part due to the continued shutdown of Disney housing.