Walt Disney World confirmed to FOX Business Saturday that it has paused its COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
“We believe that our approach to mandatory vaccines has been the right one as we’ve continued to focus on the safety and well-being of our cast members and guests, and at this point, more than 90% of active Florida-based cast members have already verified that they are fully vaccinated,” a Disney spokesperson said. “We will address legal developments as appropriate.”
An internal memo from Disney said that the pause will remain in effect as the company “assesses the new state laws protecting workers from vaccine mandates,” according to FOX 35 Orlando. The station said it had obtained a copy of the internal memo sent to Disney cast members.
Nick Caturano, a cast member at Disney World for more than 16 years, told FOX Business on Saturday that he had heard managers were leaking e-mails detailing the move two hours before the cast members received them.
“For me personally, I was trying to reach out to Disney and reason with them when I wrote my open letter on the website. But, the legislation really put it over the edge, and it looks like Disney must have had an emergency meeting, I’m guessing. And, I heard probably around noon that managers were leaking that they were getting these emails that they were going to stop the mandates. And, as regular cast members, we got it [at around] 2 p.m,” Caturano explained.
Caturano runs the website GoofyVaccine.com, which features an open letter to the company questioning Disney’s vaccine requirements.
In July, Disney said it would make vaccinations mandatory for all on-site salaried and non-union hourly employees in the U.S., giving them a deadline of the end of September.
In August, Disney said it would require union employees to show proof of vaccination by Oct. 22 to remain employed, with the option to request exemptions for medical or religious reasons.
Caturano said his experience becoming infected with COVID-19 was partially what “got [him] to stand up.”
“That and a lot of cast members were looking to me because they were really scared. They didn’t want to lose their job, but they were scared to take the shot because everybody … a lot of us felt that it just wasn’t vetted long enough,” he said, “We weren’t against the vaccine. We just didn’t think that there was enough … We just thought it was too soon to totally trust it, and we just wanted to wait … And then, that just led me to take a stand and I just wanted to reason with Disney, then it turned into something else.”
All of this comes after Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed special session legislation that puts new restrictions on COVID-19 vaccine mandates by employers.