Disney Employees Blow Whistle on Company’s COVID Coverup
The happiest place in the world might also be the shadiest when it comes to COVID-19 reporting.
As we still await a vaccine for the coronavirus crisis, (or an effective treatment, at the very least), our only hope of containing this beast is through the practices of social distancing and mask wearing. This is truly all we’ve got at the moment, and we must remain vigilant in order to beat the superbug and bet our economy back up and roaring.
And while some of the public health guidelines have faced controversial opposition, there is no doubt whatsoever that simply lying about the illness and its spread is unethical at best and immoral at worst.
That’s why it is so saddening to hear that the happiest place on earth might just be the shadiest as well, at least when it comes to honest reporting of COVID numbers.
In early July, the Walt Disney Company reopened parts of two amusement parks: Disney World near Orlando, Florida, and Disneyland in Anaheim, California. The former reopened to house the tightly controlled 13-week experiment known as the NBA Bubble, in which staff, players, coaches, and personnel adhered to strict social distancing guidelines and isolation requirements, paired with regular on-site testing. The latter welcomed back its workers with less grandeur, opening up a sprawling outdoor shopping district called Downtown Disney, with a select staff of several hundred.
Though they reopened within days of each other, the two parks worked with wildly different resources. Unlike the Bubble, the Downtown Disney district had no on-site testing. In a letter to the unions in June, Disney Labor Relations Director Bill Pace called testing “not viable” and prone to “false negatives,” in spite of the fact that it has been implemented in Orlando. Likewise, the district did not contain its visitors, but allowed streams of thousands to pass in and out of the area with little more than a temperature check. But the most alarming difference, cast members told The Daily Beast, involved the district’s shadowy contact tracing.
And here’s where things get truly ugly…
Four sources familiar with the matter told The Daily Beast that Disney has kept the total number of positive cases at the district under wraps, alerting unions only to the positive test results of their members—often days after the fact, risking further exposure—and leaving workers to guess for themselves why colleagues disappeared for days at a time, or why 11 people from the 12-person Horticulture Irrigation team didn’t show up to work for a full week.
“We want to know if any cast members have tested positive. But Disney has taken the position that they’re only going to tell us if our cast members do,” said Matt Bell, a spokesperson for UFCW Local 324, one of a dozen unions representing workers, or “cast members,” at Disneyland. “What is supposed to happen is contact tracing—find out who was exposed and quarantine them as well. I can’t confirm that they’ve done that.”
Employees throughout the park, all speaking anonymously, lamented tales of sketchy and clandestine behavior by upper management in regard to COVID.
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