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Walt Disney World has been open for a few weeks but there have been a lot of things missing. Parades and fireworks are on hold and all of the resort's stage shows have also been missing. However, that latter problem has now been resolved as Walt Disney World's ongoing talks with the Actors' Equity Association, the union that represents the actors and live performers in the park, have now been resolved, following the announcement that beginning tomorrow, Walt Disney World will be offering free COVID tests to cast members.
Several unions make up the wide variety of jobs within Walt Disney World, and while the resort came to terms with most of them before reopening, the Actors' Equity Association was holding out, asking for COVID tests for members as well as the ability to wear masks while performing. Yesterday, Walt Disney World announced that COVID-19 testing would be available for free for cast members, and that news was followed in short order by a statement by the Actors Equity Association that the union has signed a memorandum of understanding with Disney to return to work.
While the announcement of the COVID-19 testing and the announcement of the union agreement came close together, Disney has since released a statement (via theme park reporter Scott Gustin) that the decision to offer testing was not directly related to this one union's demands.
Whatever the reason, it's great to see this new safety measure being added. While tests are completely voluntary, the fact that they are available will likely give guests to Walt Disney World more confidence in the safety of the parks, which is key right now as many potential visitors to the parks are clearly lacking the confidence they need to make a trip to Orlando. That's not necessarily Walt Disney World's fault, but every little bit counts here. The testing will be available to both Walt Disney World cast members and their families and will be available starting Friday. A website has been set up to allow cast members to schedule a test.
The lack of Actors' Equity Association members in Walt Disney World meant that most stage shows, like Finding Nemo - The Musical at Disney's Animal Kingdom and Beauty and the Beast - Live on Stage at Disney's Hollywood Studios were unavailable to guests. Some shows had been modified or replaced to use non-Actors' Equity members, the Beauty and the Beast show, for example, was replaced with a six-piece band playing popular Disney music.
It's unclear if the union's other major demand, to be allowed to wear masks on stage, has also been agreed to, or if the union has decided to let it go since the other demand has now been met. I suppose we'll find out when the actors take the stage again.