Disney has reportedly paused its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for Florida employees. The freeze on mandatory vaccinations purportedly stems from new state legislation signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis this week.
"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% of active Florida-based Cast Members have already verified that they are fully vaccinated," a Disney spokesperson told Fox Business. "We will address legal developments as appropriate."
According to WOFL-TV, Disney informed employees of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate pause in a memo sent out on Friday.
"We remain confident in the approach we have taken with our mandatory vaccine policy for Florida-based Cast Members and employees, with more than 90% of our active Florida-based Cast members and employees having verified that they are fully vaccinated, and we consider this to be very successful," the memo read.
The memo was provided to the media outlet by Nick Caturano, who has worked at Disney World for 16 years. Caturano started the website GoofyVaccine.com with the message of giving people a choice to be vaccinated or not and supporting medical freedom.
"We all want to go back to a sense of normalcy," Caturano said on Saturday. "We all hoped the vaccine would do the trick. And it seemed like it was starting to work but people are getting the COVID...to separate them it doesn't make sense."
Caturano nabbed headlines in September when he organized a march against Disney's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Disney had a change of heart on compulsory coronavirus vaccines after DeSantis signed legislation that prohibits private employers from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations. The Republican governor signed legislation that states employers must provide unvaccinated workers with the option of regular COVID-19 testing and wearing protective gear to be exempt from required vaccination, along with employees who have recovered from the disease.
"We are respecting people's individual freedom in this state," DeSantis said at Thursday's press conference in Brandon, Florida.
Companies with less than 99 employees or less face a $10,000 fine per violation, and larger businesses that require vaccines will be fined $50,000 per employee violation.
Christina Pushaw, spokesperson for DeSantis, commented on the company's change of heart, "As we would expect, Disney has amended its vaccination policy to comply with Florida law."
"We are confident that other companies in Florida will likewise follow the laws signed by Governor DeSantis this week," she continued. "Nobody should lose his or her job over COVID vaccine mandates."
"Disney is a major employer in Florida, and we are proud that the 'happiest place on Earth' is here in our state," Pushaw noted.
Pushaw hoped that companies will consider re-hiring any employees who were suspended or terminated due to vaccine mandates.
The anti-vaccine mandate legislation also forced another large company to walk back its mandatory vaccines. Ascension's St. Vincent's HealthCare — which "operates three hospitals in addition to dozens of healthcare facilities and employs more than 5,000 associates" — reversed its COVID-19 vaccine mandate on Friday.
"In order to to be compliant with federal and state laws, Ascension Florida will be rescinding the suspensions of associates who were suspended pending their compliance with the Ascension Florida vaccine policy," the memo to Ascension employees stated. "All associates will be required to continue to comply with our infection control protocols. Once we have clarity regarding the application of HB 1B and CMS IFR, suspensions may be reinstated."
BREAKING: Action News Jax has obtained and confirmed this memo regarding Ascension St. Vincent\u2019s now allowing suspended unvaxed hospital employees to return to work @ActionNewsJaxpic.twitter.com/AfLmvXkXeH— Ben Becker (@Ben Becker) 1637413593