Disney Pausing COVID Vaccine Mandate in Florida, but Over 90 Percent Already Received Shot

Disney has temporarily paused its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for workers based out of its Walt Disney World theme park.

The entertainment giant sent a memo announcing the pause on November 19, attributing the state legislature's passing of limits on employer powers regarding vaccinations as its primary cause.

"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 percent of active Florida-based Cast Members have already verified that they are fully vaccinated," Disney said in the statement. "We will address legal developments as appropriate."

Non-vaccinated Disney employees will be required to wear masks and adhere to social distancing guidelines. Vaccine exemption requests will also be paused, while vaccinated workers who have not finished the verification process will be considered unvaccinated for the time being.

Some cast members are happy with the decision to pause the mandate. Local news station WKMG-TV 6 interviewed a cast member that had previously organized protests against the Disney requirements.

''I feel relieved. I feel grateful,'' said Nick Caturano. "I'm more worried about everybody else than myself and I'm happy to see that all the people that were anxious, especially around the holidays, got that pressure off their back, that monkey off their back, and they're going to be able to keep their jobs."

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed bills on November 18 that require companies to allow unvaccinated workers to not get a vaccine if they agree to regular testing.

This announcement comes as Disney Cruise Lines enacted a vaccine mandate for all guest passengers ages 5 and up. A temporarily blocked Florida law prohibited private businesses such as theirs from requiring vaccination before offering service to guests.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Disney Vaccine
Disney has paused its policy requiring Walt Disney World park employees to take the COVID-19 vaccine following new laws passed by Florida's legislature last week that limit employers' power to require vaccinations, according to a memo sent to employees. Above, Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom at Disney World is shown on Aug. 30, 2021, in Lake Buena Vista. AP Photo/John Raoux, file

The company informed employees in a memo sent Friday that it has paused the requirement also because of an appeals court's temporary delay of federal vaccination guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The company had given non-union workers until Sept. 28 to complete the vaccine course. Union-represented employees reached a deal with the company and were given through Oct. 22 to provide proof of vaccination.

The new laws also allow religious or medical exemptions, which Disney had already included in its mandate.

The bills signed by DeSantis also require companies to allow workers to wear protective gear if they do not receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Walt Disney World COVID
Non-vaccinated employees of Walt Disney World will be required to wear masks and adhere to social distancing guidelines. Above, guests stop to take a selfie at Magic Kingdom Park on July 11, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Photo by Matt Stroshane/Walt Disney World Resort via Getty Images