When You Wish Upon A Disease: Pandemic Causing More Than Health Issuescsudhbulletin October 10, 2020 0 COMMENTS
Normally bustling with people, the front gate entrance remains locked up with several signs reminding guests to follow protocols. Photos by Matt Barerro.
By Matt Barerro, Sports Assistant Editor
The second you hear the sweet sounds of Main Street U.S.A. and smell the $5 churros you’re hit with an overwhelming sense of freedom. You know, the kind that elicits nostalgia from when you watched those classic animated movies like “Peter Pan”, “Little Mermaid” or “Bambi” throughout your childhood. It’s a feeling you may not be able to describe entirely, but you know you can’t get it anywhere else, but in the Magic Kingdom itself, Disneyland. I’m a 26-year-old, bearded, burly, male and even I can admit that I run around like a toddler and treat every visit to the park like it’s my first.
Walt Disney famously stated, “Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy.”
The problem with this quote is that reality overpowers fantasy.
COVID-19 doesn’t give a shit about one’s desire to escape from the outside world or their need to purchase overpriced Mickey Mouse attire or even the excitement to go on the new ride in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Employees, especially, don’t feel any sort of need to return to work with COVID-19 still thriving and some may not have the choice after it was released that the Walt Disney Company would lay off 28,000 employees due to the prolonged closures and capacity limits at open parks.
In the memo sent to employees last Tuesday, Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, detailed the several “difficult decisions” and how workers who were considered part-time employees/non-union would be the ones most affected.
Three individuals – one of which prefers to be anonymous – who were employed at the Disneyland Resort pre-pandemic, understood this possibility since the parks weren’t producing the same revenue as before. Despite that, all three agreed with one certainty: the parks are still not in any position to reopen.
Luis Gomez, 25, a Guest Relations cast member, fears the park is pushing its opening too soon solely based on the fact that COVID-19 will still be around.
“I do not believe that Disney[land] is prepared to open,” he said. “COVID won’t disappear no matter what precautions are taken. The safety of the employees and our guests needs to be the number one priority.”
When asked about the news regarding layoffs, Gomez expressed less concern about his own job security, but more toward his colleagues.
“They can take my position all they want,” Gomez said. “I was constantly scraping for hours as it is. I just don’t want folks who have built a solid foundation within the company to suffer.”
Savanna Eagleman, 21, a steward at the Smokejumpers Grill in Disneyland’s sister park, California Adventure, agreed with Gomez believing that, despite a drop in total numbers, coronavirus cases are still an issue.
“Disneyland is not ready to open,” Eagleman said. “COVID cases are still bad in Anaheim and we don’t have any idea what safety measures are being put in place. The last time I heard from any of my managers was back in April.”
Eagleman’s job involves cleaning the dishes used for both meal preparations and from guests who have finished their food and understands she is not alone when work needs to be done.
“I’m very big on following protocol not only for my own safety but for anybody around me as well,” Eagleman said. “I don’t feel comfortable returning to a small kitchen where I know I’m not maintaining six feet of social distancing.”
Eagleman is considered a full-time, unionized cast member so the news should not affect her employment however, the fear of not yet knowing for sure is most concerning.
“It makes me anxious,” Eagleman said. “I still could [technically] be one of the ones to not be brought back. It’s just nerve-racking at this point.”
An anonymous full-time steward for the Disney parks mentioned all they can do is simply sit and wait to hear from management if they will be returning.
In speaking about how the parks could handle crowds in general once reopened, they looked at the procedures implemented at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla and how they can be considered somewhat questionable.
Disney California Adventure Park’s Grizzly Peak and Food and Wine Festival during Magic Hour on March 13, 2020, the park’s last operating day before its closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by anonymous source.
“Disney employees are wiping down surfaces like mad,” they said. “But can do little to mitigate the risk of the virus lingering in air-conditioned places like restaurants, bathrooms and so-called comfort zones; all areas where guests are free to take off their masks.”
With budget cuts and layoffs, Disneyland will have an entirely new look once they are able to reopen. Employees will have to double their workload with the lack of a normal scheduled staff. Park guests will have to get used to wearing face masks all day, scheduling ride times and social distancing every minute of their visit.
One might ask: Will it even be worth it to go? The answer, I think, is no. The Disneyland of old will never feel the same until the world is rid of COVID-19, and even then it might still feel weird.
It is important to understand that eventually we all need to find a sense of normalcy again. Park employees will return to their daily lives of making guests’ experiences more memorable and visitors of the resort will be able to feel that sense of freedom and imagination.
That time isn’t now.