Disney World workers petition to delay reopening as Florida coronavirus cases surge

Author: Frank Pallotta, CNN Business
Guests take a spin on “Dumbo, the Flying Elephant” at Magic Kingdom Park. With an unprecedented two Dumbos aloft, guests get to their flights faster aboard one of the park’s most iconic attractions. Connecting the two Dumbos, a new “big top” area allows guests to immerse themselves in circus lore in a series of fun, interactive experiences before a spin with their favorite circus elephant. The double Dumbos help anchor the Storybook Circus area of New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom Park — part of the largest expansion in Magic Kingdom history. (Disney)

More than 7,000 people are urging Disney and government officials to reconsider opening Disney World next month as coronavirus cases surge in Florida.

“This virus is not gone, unfortunately, it’s only become worse in this state,” the petition posted on MoveOn.org reads. “While theme parks are a great way to relax and enjoy free time, it is a non-essential business; 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 Disney theme park, which employs about 70,000 people, plans to begin a phased reopening on July 11 for its Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom parks and July 15 for EPCOT and Hollywood Studios, the company said last month.

A Disney spokesperson told CNN Business that the “safety and wellbeing of our cast members and guests are at the forefront of our planning,” adding that “we are in active dialogue with our unions on the extensive health and safety protocols, following guidance from public health experts, which we plan to implement.”

The company is implementing several measures to reopen safely and prevent the spread of coronavirus at its parks, including requiring employees and guests to wear face coverings. Disney will also reduce capacity at the parks and the resort will temporarily suspend parades, fireworks and other events that create crowds.

Despite the measures, the petition requests that the plan to reopen should be “re-evaluated.”

“As individuals who work in the bustling tourism industry in central Florida, we are responsible for ensuring the safety of our guests and our fellow magic makers,” the petition reads. “Keeping ourselves and our visitors safe is our No. 1 priority, in every theme park. This includes our health and well being. We are encouraged to say something when we see something that we deem is unsafe so we’re speaking up.”

Florida reported an additional 3,286 cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing the state total to 103,503.

Health and government officials have attributed the rising numbers to a combination of more testing and more social contact as businesses reopen.

Disney plans to reopen all 12 of its theme parks around the world by mid-July. Shanghai Disneyland — the company’s largest international park — reopened its gates on May 11, while Disneyland in Anaheim, California, is planning to reopen on July 17.

The Florida petition follows push back from unions that represent Disneyland workers and a separate petition calling for Disney to schedule the reopening of Disneyland to a later date. That Change.org petition has nearly 50,000 signatures.

Bob Chapek, Disney’s CEO, explained to CNN Business last month why he believes it’s safe to return to the park.

“I think what we can say is that we’ve done everything we can to open up responsibly,” Chapek said. “Taking the guidance of local health officials, state health officials, national health officials, plus our own well qualified doctors on staff to create an environment to create new operating procedures, to create new policies, to do new training, new standards of hygiene.”

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