Disneyland Workers Say It’s Too Soon to Operate Safely as the Park Hurtles Toward July Reopening

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Orange County have jumped 76 percent in recent weeks

Disneyland has released a list of safety protocols it intends to have in place for the park’s scheduled reopening on July 17–but many workers are saying the rush to reopen is putting their health and the health of visitors at risk. On Thursday, labor unions representing around 17,000 Disneyland staff members submitted a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom, asking for him to act to stop Disney from going forward with its current plans.

In addition to the 12 labor unions who joined the letter to Newsom, a change.org petition calling for the postponement of reopening circulating among the general public has received nearly 42,000 signatures.

“Safety and health are top priorities. Opening not only affects the state of California but the guests that visit us worldwide,” Marissa Mendez, a Disneyland worker told the Times. 

On the list of health protocols issued by the park are reductions in crowd size, mask requirements, new hand-washing stations, increased sanitation, and temperature checks for guests when they arrive. However, the Los Angeles Times reports, Disney has not acknowledged requests submitted by the workers unions to provide regular COVID-19 testing for staff or agreed to requests made specifically by the hospitality unions to provide electrostatic fogging and other enhanced cleaning within the Disney hotels. Disney has also not confirmed to what degree they will limit attendance or how distancing and mask requirements will be enforced.

“The safety and well-being of our cast members and guests are at the forefront of our planning,” a spokesperson told the Times. “And we look forward to continued dialogue with our unions on the extensive health and safety protocols.”

Disney has a major financial motivation to get all its global parks operating again. CNBC reports that in 2019 the parks division accounted for nearly $70 billion in revenue–about 37 percent of Disney’s total business.

Disney parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong have already reopened, as has the Orlando park’s shopping and dining area, Disney Springs, with plans to reopen the full Florida park on July 11. But while Hong Kong has not reported a death from COVID-19 since late March (the city of around 7.5 million residents has reported a total of just four deaths from the virus so far), infections and hospitalizations appear to be swelling dramatically in Orange County, which has a population half the size of Hong Kong’s.

Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have surged by 76 percent since May in Orange County, and at least 185 patients have died from the virus. Four different O.C. restaurants that participated in the county’s recent wave of reopening have already closed after staff contracted coronavirus. Statewide, California has seen its largest single-day spikes in new infections this week as more businesses push to reopen.

RELATED: Disneyland Plans to Reopen Next Month

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