Whether it's the political divide over mandates, or a just a comfort level with 90 percent of its employees vaccinated now, Disney is pulling back on mandates at its showcase Orlando, Florida, park. Will it begin to loosen up at its other amusement parks, too?
Disney World near Orlando, Florida, operated by Walt Disney Co, has put its COVID-19 vaccination mandate on hold, a spokesperson said on Saturday.
The move comes amid the Biden administration’s workplace COVID-19 vaccine rule, which requires businesses with at least 100 employees to require staff get vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested weekly and wear a face covering at work.
Local TV station Fox 35 was first to report the news, citing a cast member at the resort complex.
A Disney spokesperson had earlier told Reuters by email: “We believe that our approach to mandatory vaccines has been the right one as we have continued to focus on the safety and well-being of our Cast Members and Guests.”
“At this point, more than 90% of active Florida-based Cast Members have already verified that they are fully vaccinated,” the spokesperson added.
Executives of Walt Disney Co, along with United Parcel Service Inc and others, met with White House officials last month to discuss President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement plan for private-sector workers, amid concerns it could worsen labor shortages and supply-chain woes.
In addition, vaccine mandates are deeply controversial in the United States. Supporters say they are helping to end the nearly two-year coronavirus pandemic, while opponents argue they violate the U.S. Constitution and curb individual liberty.
Biden imposed the requirement in September, telling Americans that “our patience is wearing thin” with those refusing to get inoculated.
Walt Disney Co had made vaccination mandatory on July 30 for all its on-site salaried and non-union hourly employees in the United States, as the highly infectious Delta COVID-19 variant drove a resurgence in cases then.
(Reporting by Anirudh Saligrama in Bengaluru; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Matthew Lewis)