Request from Disney World employees to delay reopening

Entrance to the Magic Kingdom at Disney World is seen on the first day of closure as theme parks in the Orlando area suspend operations for two weeks in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Paul Hennessy / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images)

Paul Hennessy | SOPA Images | LightRocket via Getty Images

As the number of coronavirus cases in Florida increases, more than 7,000 people have signed an online petition urging Disney and government officials to reconsider the opening of Disney World next month.

“This virus is not gone, unfortunately it has only gotten worse in this state,” says the petition, published on on Sunday. “The fact that our theme parks remain closed until cases steadily decline would keep our guests, our employees, and their families safe. Reopening the theme parks only puts our guests, employees, and families at increased risk of contracting COVID- 19 “.

The petition occurs when coronavirus cases are rapidly increasing in the state. The Florida Department of Health reported 5,508 new cases overnight, according to data released by the agency. The 5.3% increase from one day to the next brings the total in the state to 109,014.

“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 the guidance of public health experts, which we plan to implement as we move towards our proposal for a gradual reopening, “Disney said in a statement to CNBC.

Disney’s shares, which have a market value of $ 202.2 billion, fell about 4% in trading on Wednesday.

As with many online petitions, it is difficult to determine if the signatories are actually Walt Disney employees or if the petition is union backed. No affiliation with an employee union is mentioned in the petition itself.

Representatives of the local Walt Disney World employee union were not immediately available for comment.

Disney theme parks employ about 70,000 people and are expected to begin a gradual reopening on July 11. Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom would be the first parks to open, followed by Hollywood Studios and Epcot on July 15.

A rival to Universal Studios in Orlando has already reopened its parks. However, the opening has had a lukewarm response from park attendees. The photographs on social networks of the two parks show limited attendance. Universal does not share its attendance numbers with the public.

The park also laid off an unspecified number of theme park employees on Tuesday, as tourism levels have not returned to Orlando.

“We are working to structure and strengthen our business for the future in anticipation that the tourism industry will take time to fully recover,” Universal said in a statement. “In that regard, we have already taken important steps, such as adjusting budgets and implementing salary and allowance reductions. More recently, we have made the difficult decision to reduce our Parks & Resorts workforce across multiple locations and business units. This decision did not it was taken lightly, but it was necessary to prepare us for the future. “

Disney has already reopened parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong, and has set dates to reopen its locations in Paris and Japan. The company has announced a series of security measures to be applied when reopening in Florida, including the requirement that masks be worn, that guests remain socially estranged, and an increase in sanitation stations.

“While theme parks are a great way to relax and enjoy free time, it is a nonessential business; it is not fair that the people who work there risk their lives, especially if they are at risk or have family members who are at risk.” says the petition. “People are more important than making a profit.”

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.