One of unions representing Walt Disney World's cast members is campaigning for the state of Florida to allow more Disney theme park employees to get Covid vaccinations.
Unite Here! Local 362 has been posting to social media photos and quotes from Disney cast members and contractors, appealing to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to approve theme park workers for vaccinations. Right now in Florida, vaccinations are supposed to be reserved for residents age 50 and older, health care workers with direct patient contact, long-term care facility residents and staff, and other persons determined to be "extremely vulnerable" according to their physician.
That leaves tens of thousands of theme park workers under the age of 50 to wait their turn. With Florida emphasizing age over industry in vaccinations, that could leave many theme park workers - who tend to skew younger - at the back of the line for Covid vaccinations, despite them being the literal faces of Florida's ultra-valuable tourism industry.
It's a contrast to the approach in California, where officials are looking more toward what people do to determine vaccine eligibility. In California, food service workers are now eligible to be vaccinated, along with teachers and health care workers, as well as anyone over age 65 or with designated health conditions. That's allowing thousands of Disneyland and other theme park employees to apply to get vaccinated in advance of theme parks reopening in the state next month. In addition, theme park attendance in California will be limited to California residents, theoretically also reducing exposure risk to workers in the industry.
Of course, being eligible for the vaccine and actually getting it are very different things. The United States has been administering about 2.5 million doses of Covid vaccines a day, but that's still not meeting the demand from everyone who wants one. While President Biden has said that all Americans should be eligible to be vaccinated by May 1, individual states have set up their own rules for who can sign up to get one now, as they look to keep vaccination sites from being overwhelmed.
Everyone deserves a Covid vaccine, so I don't want to hear that anyone doesn't - regardless of their age, occupation or health condition. But while supply is limited it makes sense to give priority to vaccinating those at greatest risk of dying or being disabled by the virus and then those with the greatest risk for becoming a vector in spreading the virus. With Orlando-area theme park workers encountering so many people from around the country every day they're on the job - including some who try to avoid the park's safety rules - that puts them in that second group.
Here's where I also would like to make a pitch for California to expand eligibility to theme park employees not in food service, too. Disneyland and Six Flags Magic Mountain have made their parking lots available to the state for testing and vaccination sites. I think it would be appropriate for the state to return the favor by dedicating some time for Disneyland and Six Flags employees to get their vaccinations there, regardless of their age, before those parks reopen to the public.
Hopefully, increased vaccine availability will make this a moot issue sooner rather than later. But Florida has benefitted for decades from its world-leading theme park industry. Florida needs to take care of its theme park employees in return.
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