Cast members put Disney World’s COVID-19 safety changes to the test

Preview days for workers to take place Tuesday and Wednesday

Walt Disney World cast members will play the role of guests this week as they test Disney’s safety changes before its theme parks begin to reopen to guests amid the coronavirus pandemic.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Walt Disney World cast members will play the role of guests this week as they test Disney’s safety changes before its theme parks begin to reopen to guests amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The company is holding cast member preview days on Tuesday and Wednesday at Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom.

“It is a really exciting day, it’s the first day there are ‘guests’ in the park, it’s cast members as guests, but they are guests,” said Eric Clinton, President of the Unite Here Local 362 union, which represents Disney custodial and attractions cast members.

Clinton said cast members came back to work at all four theme parks beginning back on June 28 and have since been spending time training and learning the new COVID-19 safety procedures.

"There has been a real emphasis on safety, PPE, social distancing," Clinton said. "Disney is doing all those things, enhanced cleaning, there are hand washing stations every 250 square feet, sanitizer is everywhere, every ride is getting cleaned and disinfected."

The union applauded Disney’s response to cast members since the theme park shut down on March 15.

"People are excited to get back to work, they are excited to have guests come and forget about their lives just for a moment and enjoy the Disney magic that is out there," he said.

Many cast members and their guests recorded some of the changes they saw within both Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. In a video posted on the Streaming the Magic blog, you can see Mickey and Minnie social distancing, employees wearing masks and some face shields and barely no one on Splash Mountain.

“Disney is really ramping up on safety, being thoughtful. They are getting this right and it is a wonder to see,” Clinton added.

On Thursday and Friday, annual passholders will get the chance to visit the parks before they open to the regular park on Saturday.

[RELATED: Disney World to reopen as coronavirus cases soar in Florida]

Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot are set to reopen July 15.

The parks were closed in mid-March as coronavirus cases increased in Florida.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday said he was not concerned about the theme parks contributing to the increase in COVID-19 cases.

“Disney, I have no doubt, it’s going to be a safe environment,” DeSantis said. “The folks who put a premium on safety, that’s showing you that, you know, we’re able to handle this, have society function still when people go into work, but do it in a way that you take some basic precautions and so we’re really impressed with what Universal has done, and I’ve looked at Disney’s plan ... it’s very very thorough.”

In May, Disney Springs did a phased reopening with new restrictions the company put in place for guests.

Florida has reported more than 200,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since March, with recent daily numbers hovering near 10,000 cases.

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About the Authors:

Nadeen Yanes joined News 6 as a general assignment reporter in 2016. She grew up in Leesburg and graduated from the University of Florida. Nadeen has won three Associated Press Awards for her reporting on the Pulse Nightclub shooting, the trial of the Pulse gunman's wife and the capture of an accused cop killer, Markeith Loyd.

Cathleigh is a newscast producer and has been with News 6 since 2014. She graduated from the University of North Florida with a degree in communications, with a focus in broadcast journalism. Cathleigh produces the 5:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. newscasts.