This past July, the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida started a phased reopening of their four theme parks and a number of their hotels. While many cast members and Disney fans were excited at this news, many others were concerned about the public health risks. Three months later and there appears to have been no outbreak, of any size, tied to Disney World. A successful first chapter to a story that is far from being finished.
Disney’s early success on the east coast is great news for the company and the industry, but no one is suggesting they are out of the woods. However, it does seem that their health and safety procedures have worked so far.
According to the New York Times, public health officials and unions representing Disney World employees have confirmed that no coronavirus outbreak has occurred among park cast members or guests. While there have been a few positive COVID-19 cases among the tens of thousands of Disney World cast members, none of them appear to have stemmed from their job, nor did they lead to any outbreak.
The Times quotes Eric Clinton, the president of UNITE HERE Local 362, which represents around 8,000 ride operators and custodians, “We’ve had very few (positive covid-19 cases), and none, as far as we can tell have been from work-related exposure.” This same story was relayed by the unions that represent hotel and restaurant workers, stagehands and show technicians, merchandise and banquet workers, bus drivers, laundry workers, and cast members who appear as Disney characters.
Some may take such a rosy picture with a grain of salt if it were simply coming from the Disney company and, of course, politics can make anyone skeptical of public officials, however, every employee union contacted shared the same sentiment and unions are not known for glossing over employee safety to make the parent company look good. Julee Jerkovich, a United Food and Commercial Workers union official admitted as much, “So far – so far – it has been a success story, as a union rep, I do not say that lightly.”
The story comes on the heels of a public and, at times, bitter struggle between the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim and the state of California. While both Disneyland and Walt Disney World are owned and operated by the same company, the states in which they reside have drastically different styles of governance.
There may be a time when we can look back and definitively say if delaying reopening out of an abundance of caution was wise or overly cautious, to the point of being harmful, if the phased July reopening in Florida provided the proper balance of safety and commerce, or if it ended up being a powder keg that will eventually explode. Until that time we journey through uncharted waters together. It seems that Disney has succeeded so far, but the company, public officials, and guests should remain vigilant and remember that the line between a success story and a catastrophic failure is thin and no one should be dancing in the end zone quite yet.
As always, the DisInsider will be watching this story, and all other theme park stories, closely. Keep checking in to stay updated and make sure to follow us on our public Facebook page ‘The DisInsider’ or on Twitter and Instagram at @thedisinsider – please share your favorite stories and leave comments and feedback.