Since reopening its Downtown Disney shopping complex in Anaheim, California, Disney has been underreporting the number of positive COVID-19 cases and letting employees who have been infected return to work sooner than health officials say is safe, several workers and spouses told The Daily Beast.
Disneyland and California Adventure remain closed, but Downtown Disney was allowed to reopen in early July. There are several hundred employees working there, and no on-site coronavirus testing; The Daily Beast reports that in a letter sent to the dozen unions representing employees, Disney Labor Relations Director Bill Pace said on-site coronavirus testing was “not viable” because of too many “false negatives.”
Four people familiar with the matter said Disney is not being forthcoming when it comes to reporting the number of coronavirus cases among workers; unions are notified when a member tests positive, but the news typically doesn’t come until several days later, leading to further exposure. During the first week Downtown Disney was back open, a gardener went home sick, and after being tested on his own, learned he had coronavirus, two people told The Daily Beast. Co-workers didn’t know they were exposed until a week later, when Disney confirmed the positive results.
Alicia, a woman whose spouse works for Disney, told The Daily Beast that everything employees know about COVID-19 “has come from word of mouth,” with co-workers calling or texting the latest updates. “Disney management is not really officially acknowledging that any of this is happening,” she said.
The Daily Beast also learned from a member of Downtown Disney’s Horticulture Irrigation team who tested positive for COVID-19 in late July that on Aug. 2, five days after receiving his test results, Disney cleared him to return to work. He had not spent two weeks in isolation or had a negative test result. The man told The Daily Beast he went back to work on Aug. 3.
The Daily Beast contacted 11 different unions, and none were able to confirm the total number of coronavirus cases among the workforce. A spokesman for UFCW Local 324 said only two cases had been reported to the union, but Disney did not share any details on how many people they might have exposed to the virus. Disney did not respond to requests for comment. Catherine Garcia