Crowds Flock To Downtown Disney Reopening At Disneyland, Despite Long Lines And Employee Health Concerns

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Disney began the phased reopening of its famed Anaheim park today with the shopping district fronting the Disneyland Resort. Downtown Disney businesses opened at 10 a.m. and even before then the line to get in spilled down the sidewalk. See it below.

The safety precautions being implemented at reopening include temperature screenings prior to entry, face coverings for Guests ages 2 and older, physical distancing measures and physical barriers at select locations. The shopping district will also see reduced hours, an increased focus on cleaning and sanitation and the suspension of entertainment offerings and high-touch interactive areas.

Even so, according to local L.A. TV station KTLA, some fans even waited overnight to make sure they could get in.

Minutes after opening, the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney was mobbed by a non-socially-distanced throng scooping up armfuls of plush toys, kids’ backpacks and Disney-branded sweatshirts.

The opening spurred mixed emotions among Downtown Disney employees.

“Definitely some people are ready to go back to work and are looking forward to earning a living again, but there’s quite a few people who are scared and just don’t know what to expect and feel vulnerable,” said Andrea Zinder, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 324, which represents the Downtown Disney employees.

Union leaders were still negotiating some issues before the Thursday opening, according to Zinder.

“We think there are more things they can do to protect workers and guests,” Zinder said. “They should be providing testing on premises to employees when they go back and on a periodic basis… They do have a health care facility on premises for their employees and this would be a very easy addition.”

Disney posted a video highlighting the safety measures for guests. See it below.

And as Downtown Disney opened on Thursday, there was an abundance of safety signage and hand sanitizer.

The phased reopening of the Walt Disney World Resort theme parks begins on Saturday with Magic Kingdom Park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, followed July 15 by EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Tickets and resort reservations went on sale on Thursday.

Employees at the Florida resort have similar concerns. Actors’ Equity Association, which represents 750 Walt Disney World workers, demanded coronavirus testing as a condition for returning to work. Equity says Disney has “locked out” its union members as a way of retaliating against the demand. Disney has said park safety protocols have been accepted by other unions.

In an email to Deadline, a Disney spokesperson said, “Seven unions signed agreements to have their employees return to work, the Actors’ Equity rejected our safety protocols and have not made themselves available to continue negotiations, which is unfortunate. We are exercising our right to open without Equity performers.”

According to Equity, Disney said on June 23 that it would recall Equity members for rehearsals in late June/early July. On June 25, Equity issued a public statement calling for the park’s actors to be tested since social distancing was not practical. Equity says Walt Disney World rescinded its recall notices for Equity members on June 26.

Some Disneyland employees who are going back to work are worried about contracting coronavirus. They want Disney to pay for time off if quarantine is required.

“We also think it’s really necessary that Disney provide extra paid time off to anyone who is required to quarantine by a doctor or medical professional because they were exposed in some way or another,” Zinder said.

There is also some concern about patrons who refuse to wear a face covering, Zinder said.

“We’re hopeful the mask rule they’re putting in place will be enforced because that is very, very important, especially in a place like World of Disney, which is an indoor facility,” Zinder said prophetically.

Orange County Supervisor Doug Chaffee, whose district includes Downtown Disney and Disneyland, said the company has a reputation for making sure patrons follow the rules.

“That’s the magic of Disney. They are strong about enforcing their rules,” Chaffee said. “If you’re not wearing a mask I don’t think they’ll let you be there.”

Anaheim spokesman Mike Lyster said city officials are “very encouraged and happy to see Downtown Disney opening.”

City officials, “have a lot of confidence in Disney to open safely. The plan they laid down is very solid.”

Only outdoor dining is allowed at this time in Downtown Disney. Bars must be closed for the next few weeks under recent state guidelines to deal with the surge in COVID-19 cases.

As for Disneyland itself and neighboring California Adventure, Disney brass have indicated that they are awaiting guidance from the state before announcing a reopening date. California Governor Gavin Newsom has repeatedly praised Disney leadership for that decision. Newsom indicated that, given the state of the state’s COVID numbers, it may be some time before those guidelines are forthcoming.

City News Service and Greg Evans contributed to this report.

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