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Disney World lays off 720 performers because of pandemic

Latest blow to U.S. economy due to COVID-19


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — With many of its live entertainment shows gone dark because of the coronavirus, Walt Disney World on Wednesday laid off 720 actors and singers, according Actors’ Equity Association, the labour union representing the performers.

Only 60 Equity performers are working or returning to work at the Orlando, Florida-based theme park resort, the union said in a statement.

The performer layoffs were part of The Walt Disney Co.’s plans to eliminate 28,000 jobs in its parks division in California and Florida because of restrictions and costs from the pandemic. Two-thirds of the planned layoffs involve part-time workers.

“Our hearts go out to all the cast members at Walt Disney World,” said Kate Shindle, president of Actors’ Equity Association. “Disney has made it clear that our members would face work reductions since they announced layoffs of nearly 28,000 employees. That does not make this news any less painful.”

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The union said the laid off performers would maintain their right to be recalled for job openings until the end of 2021.

City employees test positive

Meanwhile, about a dozen city employees in Fort Lauderdale have tested positive for the coronavirus and nearly 30 others are quarantining, officials said.

Across Florida, the numbers of those testing positive — while still way down from the state’s summertime peak — have begun inching up over the past week, prompting a school in Orlando to return to virtual classes and the mayor of Jacksonville has extended a mask mandate through Thanksgiving Day.

On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said during an appearance in central Florida that he has lobbied President Donald Trump to loosen travel restrictions from critical travel markets like Brazil and Europe, in hopes of jump-starting tourism into the state’s tourist attractions and beaches.

On Wednesday, Florida health officials confirmed 4,115 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the statewide total since the pandemic began to 790,426. The state also confirmed 66 new deaths on Wednesday, bringing the death toll from COVID-19 to 16,775.

There were 2,336 people being treated for the disease in Florida hospitals in the late morning Wednesday, according to a state online census of hospital beds. That figure reached nearly 10,000 in late July, then declined steadily until late September when it began hovering between 2,000 and 2,200 for several weeks.