More than 5,500 people have signed a petition urging Disney to reconsider its strategy to reopen its Florida theme parks and protect its "Magic Makers" amid the coronavirus pandemic. Disney World employees launched the petition this week, as the Sunshine State's COVID-19 cases surged past 100,000.
Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom at the Walt Disney Resort near Orlando are on track to begin a phased reopening on July 11, and Epcot and Hollywood Studios parks are reopening on July 15, marking the return of tens of thousands of employees and guests. But experts warned last week that Florida could be the next epicenter of coronavirus in the U.S. if social distancing measures aren't followed.
"Reconsider the opening of theme parks and resorts until a time when COVID-19 cases are no longer rising and no longer posing risk of spreading this disease to our working cast/team members, their families, and our theme park guests." Katie Belisle, an Attractions Hostess at the park, wrote in the petition, addressed to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.
The petition argues that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' multiphase reopening plan stated that theme parks would open in the second phase, once virus cases trended downward and there was no evidence of a resurgence. But in the last week, cases in the state have skyrocketed.
"Retreating back to an earlier phase in re-opening is our best option at not exposing the virus to thousands and thousands of theme park employees and their families," the petition states. "Keeping ourselves and our visitors safe is our number one priority, in every theme park."
"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," the petition concludes. "People are more important than making a profit."
DeSantis acknowledged this week that increased testing alone can't account for recent record numbers of new cases. He said he will crack down on businesses that don't follow social distancing guidelines, but won't change the state's reopening plan or enact a state-wide mandatory mask order.
Disney World released new safety guidelines for its parks, which include requiring both staff and guests to wear face masks and undergo temperature checks, hand-washing stations, limited capacity, no FastPasses or "park hopping." Disney Springs, an entertainment and shopping complex, has been open since May 20, and SeaWorld and Universal Orlando opened earlier this month.
The Walt Disney Co., Demings and Dyer did not immediately respond to CBS News' request for comment.
First published on June 23, 2020 / 3:40 PM
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