Thursday,  July 2, 2020  2:54 am

Disney World workers petition to delay reopening as Florida COVID-19 cases soar

Disney World workers petition to delay reopening as Florida COVID-19 cases soar
Workers are speaking out against Disney’s plans to reopen Walt Disney World (Pax Global Media/Michael Pihach)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

Workers are speaking out against Disney’s plans to reopen Orlando, Florida-based Walt Disney World theme park on July 11th, citing concerns around Florida’s rising cases of COVID-19 infections.

In a petition addressed to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, Disney World Attractions hostess Katie Belisle urges officials to “reconsider” the opening of parks until a time when COVID-19 is “no longer rising” and posing a risk to employees, their families and park guests.

The petition, which launched last week, was signed by nearly 8,000 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon (June 24th).

“This virus is not gone, unfortunately it’s only become worse in this state,” the petition reads. “Having our theme parks remain closed until cases are steadily decreasing would keep our guests, our employees and their families safe.”

The state of Florida has seen a recent surge in COVID-19 cases, reporting 3,286 cases of coronavirus on Tuesday (June 24th), bringing the state total to 103,503.

Younger Floridians account for many of the positive tests, recent reports suggest. 

U.S. parks closed in March

Walt Disney Co. parks began shutting down at the end of January, starting in Asia, to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

According to the company’s second quarter reports, the move cost Disney’s Parks, Experiences and Consumer around $1 billion USD in revenue.

READ MORE: Disney parks take a $1-billion hit due to COVID-19 shutdown

Park closures hit the United States by mid-March once the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.

Disneyland in California, Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney World were all closed by March 15th, with Disney Cruise Line suspending sailings.

The company has since proposed a phased re-opening for it’s Orlando-based parks, with its Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom opening on July 11th and July 15th for EPCOT and Hollywood Studios.

Disney has also unveiled new health and safety protocols for guests and staff, including mandatory face coverings and temperature checks before entering the parks, capacity capping, cashless transactions and an increased presence of hand-sanitizing stations.

READ MORE: Disney Parks’ Chief Medical Officer outlines plans for reopening

The park has also temporarily suspended activities that create large crowds, such as parades.

Disney has temporarily suspended park activities that create large crowds. (Pax Global Media/Michael Pihach)

A "non-essential business"

Belisle’s petition calls theme parks a “non-essential business,” pointing to the risk the reopening of Disney World would pose to employees.

“It is not fair to the people who work there to risk their lives, especially if they are at risk or have family members who are at risk. People are more important than making a profit,” the petition reads.

The protest aligns with a similar pushback from unions representing workers at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, which will begin a phased reopening on July 9th. 

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