Florida Governor Will Not Stop Disney World Reopening as COVID-19 Cases Surge in the State
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has no intention of interfering with Walt Disney World's July reopening, despite a petition from concerned employees and a surge in novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the state.
Last month, the Orlando theme park announced July 11 as the start of a phased reopening process after a months-long closure during the ongoing pandemic.
As the state began to lift its lockdown, however, Florida experienced a spike in coronavirus infections, including several days of record-breaking numbers of new cases recorded, reaching more than 9,500 in a day on June 27.
On Wednesday, Disneyland in California, another state seeing rising cases. announced that it had "no choice but to delay" its intended July 17 reopening date. The decision came as the state government did not grant approval and guidelines in time to arrange the opening.
In a statement to local Florida news outlet WTSP on Thursday, Gov. DeSantis said there is no plan to block Disney World's plans. (A spokesperson for the Governor's office did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for an update on Monday morning.)
"We are monitoring all aspects related to COVID-19 in Florida and do not have plans to roll back any approved reopening business plans at this time," the earlier statement read.
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The governor's update came after a Disney World employee created a petition called "Protect Our Magic Makers" that proposes postponing the reopening. It has more than 16,000 signatures as of Monday morning. The employee urged Disney and government officials to delay the park's reopening amid the rise in cases saying it wasn't worth the risk for parkgoers and castmembers.
"This virus is not gone, unfortunately, it’s only become worse in this state," the MoveOn.org petition states. "Having our theme parks remain closed until cases are steadily decreasing would keep our guests, our employees and their families safe. Re-opening the theme parks is only putting our guests, employees, and families at higher risk for contracting COVID-19."
It continues: "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.... We are encouraged to say something when we see something that we deem is unsafe so we’re speaking up."
PEOPLE has reached out to Disney for comment.
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Speaking about the delay of its California parks' reopening, Disney told CNBC in a statement: "The safety and well being of our cast members and guests are at the forefront of our planning, and 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 as we move toward our proposed, phased reopening."
Last week, a spokesperson for the Actors’ Equity Association union, which represents a large portion of Disney Parks employees, told WTSP that the Florida resort should follow suit with the West Coast park.
"If Disneyland has postponed, it is unclear how Walt Disney World can responsibly move toward reopening when coronavirus cases are much worse in Florida," said the spokesperson.
Florida has reported a total of 141,067 cases of COVID-19 and 3,418 deaths to date, according to the latest Times data.
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