Disneyland refuses to report COVID cases, employees resort to word of mouth


This story will likely end my days as a Disneyland apologist. My beloved House of the Mouse has seriously f**ked up. Even after a successful test run of reopening with the NBA Bubble at Disneyworld in Florida, Downtown Disney in Anaheim, CA is throwing all sensible COVID precautions out the door in favor of the almighty dollar. That’s grossly irresponsible but what sounds practically criminal, Disney refuses to accurately report positive COVID cases to their employees. Instead, they are only reporting the number of cases to the Disney union, leaving the rest of the employees to let each other know of outbreaks. They’ve had to communicate secretly because they risk being fired if caught discussing it or speaking to the press.

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.

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.

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.”

“Basically all of our COVID information has come from word of mouth,” said Alicia*, the spouse of a cast member whose contract prohibits them from speaking to the press, “co-workers texting each other, co-workers talking to each other, and things that my [spouse] has seen on the job. None of this is from any of the managers. Disney management is not really officially acknowledging that any of this is happening.”

“In addition to [Disney’s] unscrupulous suppression of their Covid-19 case numbers, they have ‘highly encouraged/recommended’ employees to not anger ANY customer in Downtown Disney,” Alicia wrote. “Regardless of the new safety rules, so long as the customer is wearing a mask, [cast members] are discouraged from ‘ruffling feathers,’ meaning social distancing enforcement has become fairly scattershot at best.”

[From The Daily Beast]

The full report from The Daily Beast is so much worse. They include one instance of a worker who knew he had COVID and showed up to work his full shift anyway. Another got a positive result and was asked to work that night, even after he’d disclosed his test results. Requests for comments from Disney, Gov Newsom’s office and the City of Anaheim have all gone unanswered. This is b*llshit. An entire horticulture team, who works everywhere in the park and Downtown Disney, disappeared and the cast members were not told because they’re different unions. The article does not mention what measures are taken to protect workers from the virus, except to mention Disney workers were responsible for their own testing, it is not provided by their employer. That, refusing to accurately report cases and not ensure accurate contact tracing is recklessly negligent and they deserve all the lawsuits coming their way.

At the end of the article, Alicia, the Disney spouse that’s quoted above, said that employees are, “’highly encouraged/recommended’ to not anger ANY customer in Downtown Disney.” Although masks are still being enforced, social distancing is being eschewed to avoid “ruffling feathers” among the customers. Yes, gawd forbid we upset someone spreading a deadly virus as he cuts in line to get a Dole Whip.

Photo credit: Instagram

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43 Responses to “Disneyland refuses to report COVID cases, employees resort to word of mouth”

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    This is infuriating, Hopefully people will think twice about going—though I don’t know why anyone would want to go right now anyway, and adults that go regularly without children boggle my mind.

    • Melissa says:

      um…I go every year (except this one) without children. I took my kids when they were young, but I enjoy it far more as an adult. My husband isn’t interested so I go with a girlfriend or my youngest son (age 23). Disney without the kiddos is a thing.

      • El says:

        Do you live in Florida or CA? If you have local discounts and can pop in for a day, I can see that. However, adults who repeatedly go to Disney without kids when they have to fly, pay for hotel, car, full ticket price, etc. do baffle me. If I’m going to spend $$$, I’d rather go see something culturally authentic, like the actual German castle.

      • Case says:

        @El People can do both, though! I love traveling and visiting new countries, and also enjoy going to Disney just as much, for different reasons. We contain multitudes.

      • Joanna says:

        I’ve lived in Florida 15 years and never been to Disneyworld

    • fluffy_bunny says:

      People going right now are people who frequently go and don’t mind that there aren’t any parades or fireworks. They’re going for the short lines. We were there 2 weeks ago and we were done with everything by early afternoon every day. I don’t recommend people who have never been or go infrequently go right now because the value isn’t there but for people who have already had the full experience the short lines are worth it. Disney is our cheap vacation spot because we drive, have annual passes and own their timeshare. We had 2 weeks in Europe scheduled for this summer and just airfare costs more than I spend a year on Disney.

    • tealily says:

      Why the f- are we policing people’s vacations here?

      I mean, yeah on the pandemic thing, but why do you care where someone without children vacations in a more general way?

    • lucy2 says:

      I have friends who have young kids, and have gone to Disney without them!
      It’s not for me – I can’t deal with the crowds and the heat, but if people enjoy it, great.
      Right now though? Stay home!

      • fluffy_bunny says:

        There’s slow seasons when it isn’t hot. I paid for private school so my kid could miss a week every year for our annual December Disney trip. The windows of opportunity for my husband to take vacation don’t line up with our school calendar. The first 2 weeks of December are usually dead and everything is decorated for the holidays.

    • clomo says:

      I went as a teenager, back in the good old days, with my best friend and we got busted by a security guard in the parking lot named Walt for smoking out of a dragon shaped bong named Puff which he confiscated. He told us to come back tomorrow and try again. Now the parking lot probably smells like greenery everyday.

  2. ME says:

    This is really reckless. Why are people still going to Disney anyways? How is it fun right now? You can’t fully enjoy yourself so why bother? If this is how Disney is going to act, hit them where it counts, the wallet ! I’m just shocked at how little people care about their own lives. Going out to movie theaters, eating inside restaurants, going to indoor gyms, and going to f*cking Disney. I don’t get it. Do you not understand what this virus can do to your body? Is ANYTHING worth that ???

  3. tealily says:

    It kills me that even companies with all the money in the world aren’t bothering to do this right when so many small businesses are bending over backward to figure out how to make this all work.

  4. Kkat says:

    The people going to downtown disney, MY MOM, are stupid and disagree with the restrictions we currently have in California.

    Orange county is disgustingly thick with maga morons crying about their “freedoms”
    We’re 20 minutes away in Los Angeles county and the number of people crying about their rights being violated and how unfair it is their behavior is curbed during a pandemic makes me seriously worried about the election outcome.

    • Mel M says:

      Me too and the whole “muh freedoms” BS and acting like everyone’s opinions are legit make me rage. If it was just about you, like only you could catch some deadly disease when you go out unprotected and you couldn’t spread it to others then fine, gtfo and try and kill yourself, I wouldn’t give a crap. BUT IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT YOU!!! And I fully believe these people know that but just dgaf about other people at all. I’m looking at you evangelicals.

      • Kkat says:

        Exactly, and a lot of these morons are evangelicals.
        These are the same fake christians that claim not to be racist (they Very much are) hate gay people and have no issues with kids in cages.

        My mom doesn’t like trump, but will vote for him again because of the judges and supreme court appointments.

        Except for my husband and two kids, my vast extended family are magat racist assholes
        People think California is so blue, but there are a ton of magats here in the suburbs

    • Noodle says:

      One of my friends went to Downtown Disney last week. She had to wait THREE HOURS to get into one of the stores. Downtown Disney is all shopping and restaurants. It’s not Disneyland and has nothing to offer except overpriced shopping and eating.

  5. Leah says:

    Between this and then wanting to charge $30 to watch Mulan once all they care about is the almighty buck. If only they had stopped buying the properties of other people and created their own properties in house they wouldn’t be so greedy to recoup their losses. They didn’t need to buy 20th century fox and erase its history, they didn’t need to buy Marvel and Star Wars.

    They were charging a mint for tickets to the park before the pandemic hit and that was blamed on Star Wars land. I remember a friend telling me that Disneyland had reached somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 for an adult ticket. The last time I went to Disneyland tickets were $25 so it’s been ages since I’ve been there.

    • fluffy_bunny says:

      It’s a brand new movie that you would have had to buy tickets to see so it makes sense that they would charge extra to see the newest movie.

      • Leah says:

        Yeah but $30 is a lot to ask for a one time viewing of what is rumored to be a very mediocre movie that’s not on par with the animated feature (there’s no Mushu in the live version, I like that dragon). Even when movie theaters were open they weren’t charging $30 a ticket.

        If they released Mulan for $20 and you could keep the movie that would be understandable but $30 for one viewing? That’s just greed talking.

      • fluffy_bunny says:

        @Leah- Movie tickets are like $12 where I am and then you have concessions. It would cost me more than $30 to take my family to see Mulan if we wanted to. I don’t like the live action remakes so I don’t see them but if I did I think $30 is fair.

      • whatever says:

        But some of us are single. If I were to go see this in the theater I’d pay about ten dollars for my ticket. No way I’m spending $30.

      • Becks1 says:

        You have the movie for the 30 dollars and can watch it as much as you want. And it was definitely one of the better live-action remakes and a lot better than the animated version (we paid for it and I was really pleasantly surprised with how good it was.)

        I don’t disagree that in general Disney prizes the all mighty dollar, but I don’t think the 30 dollars for Mulan is a good example of that.

      • Kkat says:

        You can watch it as much as you want. My sister got it and my niece has watched it at least 8 times now

    • Case says:

      The Mulan thing doesn’t compare to this in any way. They’re trying to make up for what they would’ve made in the theater, and if people don’t like it they can wait three months, which they’re upfront about (right on the page to purchase the movie it says it will be available to all subscribers on Disney+ in December). If people are single and want to buy it, they can let their friends use their log in and split the cost. The cost isn’t for a one-time viewing, you’re buying the movie and can rewatch as much as you want. So basically I could buy it and then let 10 of my friends watch it from their homes if I wanted to.

    • IMUCU says:

      @Leah — Well, the thing with the $30 is that most people will have 2 or more people watch it at once. It was my MIL’s bday a couple of days ago. She usually goes to Disney World and stays a few days for it each year (we live nearby in Tampa). She had to cancel this year bc she is high risk. So, she wanted to watch Mulan instead (my husband and I were originally just going to wait until it hit Disney Plus for no additional cost in December). Four of us, socially distanced and wearing masks in their living room, watched Mulan on her bday. It cost less for us to do it that way instead of going to the movie theater, had that been an option. It was also much more comfortable watching at home, but then again I was never much for going to see movies in a crowded theater pre-pandemic. I also think you can watch it more than once.

  6. fluffy_bunny says:

    I was at WDW 2 weeks ago and avoided Disney Springs because I had read that things haven’t been handled correctly there. The Animal Kingdom Lodge was being handled great and so are the parks. Masks are being enforced. There’s hand sanitizer everywhere and there’s a lot of social distancing measures in place.

  7. Meg says:

    Disney is an incredibly lucrative company i cant see any reason for this other than blatant disregard for life, money is all that matters

  8. Valerie says:

    I have friends who, before the pandemic, went to Disney regularly. I’m talking weekly. Why? Why is this something people waste their money on?

    • fluffy_bunny says:

      It’s fun. Have you ever been? It’s not just for kids. It’s actually pretty cheap if you are a local to buy an annual pass and go frequently. Epcot runs several festivals each year to draw in locals. Drinking around the World Showcase is a legit activity. People do bachelor and bachelorette parties to drink around Epcot. I’m an out of state passholder and do a trip yearly and more than 1 trip every other year. We drive and own their timeshare so a Disney trip is a cheap vacation for us.

    • Case says:

      I don’t get comments like this. People like different things! Some people like to spend money going to concerts or sporting events. Some people like going to theme parks. It’s not a waste of money if it’s something you love doing. Disney is a really fun place to a lot of people.

    • Kkat says:

      I live 20 minutes from Disneyland. My mom and I had annual passes for years. She and I would go about twice a week. We’d ditch our families and de stress and get our exercise in.
      We’d usually go for 2-5 hours. Ride the train around the park a couple times, hit Pirates, Haunted mansion (if the line was short) and small world.

  9. Julianne says:

    We went to Downtown Disney over Labor Day weekend. They were controlling the amount of people that were let in at one time. The temperature checks were not perfunctory. There was plenty of social distancing, hand sani stations, and bathrooms were cleaned often. We were stopped at one point because we were eating and walking. They have a rule that if you are eating or drinking you must remain stationary. Stores had a waiting list. You gave them your cell # to reserve your place in line and they texted you when it was your turn in the store. I talked to a cast member that told me that the amount of people that were let in just two weeks ago, had now been cut to a quarter of that. So the wait to get into the World of Disney store was over three hours.

    While I felt like it was a good, safe, soft re-opening, I’m disappointed to hear the way they are handling cast test reporting though. No excuses there.

  10. Case says:

    I love Disney unabashedly, but I knew the evil side of them would lead to this. They’re the type to have deaths occur on their property and try to cover it up before the police arrive, lol. It’s not shocking to me whatsoever, and it’s dangerous. We’ll never hear of an outbreak there unless it’s major and they can’t keep it hidden. I’m not a Disney apologist — I’m someone who really loves their parks and movies, but also fully realizes they’re a greedy, gigantic corporation.

    • fluffy_bunny says:

      That’s any corporation really. People just hate more on Disney because it’s supposed to give them the warm and fuzzies and be magical. It’s still magical with the masks and social distancing. And people have died on property you just don’t hear about it because they settle with the families and have iron clad NDAs. The only thing we’ve heard of recently is the kid getting eaten by the alligator and that was totally the dad’s fault. Who the fuck doesn’t know there’s alligators in every body of water in FL?

      • Kkat says:

        Sometimes it gets out. They had legionnaires disease in the misters in the castle the other year. Not only did people and cast members in the park get it, but it drifted out into the neighborhoods and people in the community got it. The health dept shut them down for a day until they could pass inspection. That was all hush hush in the news but the health dept contacted everyone in the surrounding area to have people tested.

  11. Zaya says:

    So o love Disney. I grew up going to Disney, hanging out there in the afternoon, after school etc. but I always knew it was like any other Corp, greedy.

    Downtown Disney isn’t Disneyland. Disneyland hasn’t reopened yet. Downtown Disney is just a bunch of stores and restaurants – most of which you can find elsewhere, so I really don’t get the need to wait in line for 3 hours just to go there.

    • fluffy_bunny says:

      If they dropped some limited edition merchandise at World of Disney I can understand why people would wait. A lot of people make money by buying things for other people or reselling on ebay. I’ve paid to have people go pick up in park only items for me. I was just at WDW and wanted a purse that was at World of Disney but didn’t want to go to Disney Springs to get it. A couple of days later they put it on the shop Disney site so I bought it. The only down side is I can’t search through the ones on sale for pattern placement.

      • Zaya says:

        Are they dropping limited edition merch during a pandemic? Cause if they are, I would say that’s it’s highly irresponsible on Disney’s part.

        I don’t have a problem with Downtown Disney during normal times. I just don’t see why people are waiting in hours long line when we’re in the midst of a pandemic.

      • fluffy_bunny says:

        Pretty sure they are dropping some limited edition Dooney’s. I saw someone online looking for one and they didn’t want to pay what they were going for on ebay. I think it was Disney dogs or something like that. It might just be whatever was already scheduled to drop and not new items that they’ve decided to manufacture. They’ve also dropped some limited edition ears.

  12. MerlinsMom1018 says:

    Happiest Place On Earth, my ass