Walt Disney World and unions agree on safeguards for returning to work

(Reuters) – Walt Disney Co and unions representing workers at Florida’s Walt Disney World have reached an agreement on safeguards to protect employees from coronavirus, a union statement said on Thursday, removing one of the company’s hurdles to reopening its popular theme parks.

The measures include social distancing practices, increased cleaning and mandatory masks for workers and guests, according to a statement from the Service Trades Council Union, which represents about 43,000 workers at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Disney has announced that some shops and restaurants in the Disney Springs shopping area in Orlando will open on May 20, but the company has not set a reopening date for any of its four theme parks in the area.

The company closed its parks around the world starting in late January to help prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading. It reopened Shanghai Disneyland to a limited number of visitors on Monday.

The agreement with the Walt Disney World unions also calls for plastic barriers and touchless transactions at cash registers, temperature checks for guests, and other measures, the STCU statement said.

Employees who contract COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, will receive paid time off to quarantine, the statement said.

Disney shares were trading 1.9% higher at $104.90 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Chris Reese and Marguerita Choy)

Long lines, lots of kids, and plenty to touch: How does Disney reopen its parks?

By Helen Coster and Lisa Richwine

(Reuters) – For a glimpse at how Disney recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, look no further than Shanghai, where the entertainment giant has staged a limited reopening of Shanghai Disney Resort. Adults, kids and senior citizens wear masks while wandering among staff and security guards who carry contact-less thermometers and hand sanitizer.

As some U.S. states lift stay-at-home orders, investors and park fans are watching to see how Walt Disney Co — which makes a third of its revenue from parks, experiences and products — reimagines the “happiest place on earth” for a world altered by the coronavirus.

The high-touch, high-volume, kid-centered nature of the parks, and Disney’s need to prevent damage to a brand synonymous with safety and families, will make reopening difficult, experts said.

Disney’s ability to reopen its parks in Asia, the United States and France will also be a powerful signal about how the world can get back to a semblance of normal as it deals with COVID-19.

“This is the greatest challenge that the industry has ever faced,” said Phil Hettema, founder of The Hettema Group, which designs theme park rides and other experiences.

Disney, which has not announced any plans to reopen the parks, declined to comment for this story.

Executive Chairman Bob Iger recently said checking guests’ temperature could become routine at Disney park entrances. Among other plans under consideration, according to a source briefed on Disney’s thinking: Rides like the Space Mountain roller coaster could stagger guests in each “rocket” to enforce social distancing. Guests could be notified via app or another technology when they can go on a ride or in a restaurant to eliminate lines.

Staffers, known as cast members, and guests could be required to wear masks. But in true Disney fashion, employees’ masks would be fun, not scary, the source said.

Disney on Thursday began online sales of face masks featuring Mickey Mouse, Baby Yoda and other characters and said up to $1 million in profits would go to charity.

Masks, now worn commonly across China, are ubiquitous in the shopping district outside Shanghai Disney, where workers disinfect a playground for 5- to 12-year-olds at noon and 3 p.m. daily. Temperature checks are mandated by local regulations, according to Shanghai Disney’s website.

Business and political leaders in Florida, home to Walt Disney World, have floated ideas such as limiting capacity at all theme parks during an initial re-opening phase.

The question that health experts and financial analysts are asking is whether any of these measures will be enough to protect employees, guests or Disney’s bottom line.

Social distancing could come at a steep price.

In April, UBS downgraded its rating on Disney and lowered its division profit estimates to $500 million in fiscal 2020 and just $200 million in 2021 compared to $6.8 billion in 2019.

Disney parks need to be running at roughly 50% of capacity to be profitable, according to the firm.

Investors will see a fuller impact of coronavirus when Disney releases its second-quarter results on May 5; Comcast said on Thursday that if its Universal Studios parks remain closed for the entire second quarter, the company would suffer an earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization loss of roughly $500 million.

Financial analysts have predicted reopen dates for Disney ranging from as early as June to Jan. 1. Guidelines will be set by governors in California and Florida, where Iger and Walt Disney World Resort President Josh D’Amaro sit on state reopening task forces. The rest is up to Disney.

Although Disney and other large venues face an unprecedented challenge protecting guests from an easily spread airborne virus, experts and a former executive pointed to its experience handling crowds.

More than 157 million people visited Disney parks in 2018, according to the Themed Entertainment Association.

“If anybody can figure it out, Disney will,” said Dave Schmitt, founder of MR-ProFun, a consultant to theme parks.

Safeguards have limits. Temperature checks will not catch everyone infected, and most vaccines are not 100% effective, said Dr. Megan Murray, a global health professor at Harvard Medical School.

Even so, a vaccine would provide some reassurance for park-goers, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted from April 15-21. While a fifth of respondents said they would attend an amusement, theme or water park whenever they reopen, about 30% would go if a vaccine was available. The poll, which surveyed 4,429 American adults, noted that a vaccine might not be available for more than a year.

Loyal fans are counting on Disney to get this right. Chicago resident Kelly Alexis, 50, has been to Disney resorts 35 to 40 times and plans to go to Disney World with her family in October if the park is open.

“It’s just the feeling that they do things so perfectly and they will take every precaution,” Alexis said. “They’re not going to want to have an epidemic where everyone gets sick at Disney. They would never let that happen.”

(Reporting by Helen Coster in New York, Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles, and Shanghai Newsroom; Additional reporting by Arriana McLymore in Raleigh, North Carolina; Editing by Kenneth Li and Lisa Shumaker)

Wall Street hits new record high on Disney, Best Buy

Wall Street hits new record high on Disney, Best Buy
By Arjun Panchadar

(Reuters) – Wall Street’s three main indexes hit all-time highs on Tuesday, as gains for Disney and Best Buy countered weak consumer confidence data and a slump in shares of discount store operator Dollar Tree.

Walt Disney Co was the top boost to the Dow Jones with a 1.8% rise, after a report its streaming service was averaging nearly a million new subscribers a day. The stock also propped up the benchmark S&P 500.

Rising hopes of a U.S.-China trade truce, upbeat domestic economic data and a third-quarter corporate earnings season that has largely topped lowered expectations have put the market back on an upward track after a torrid summer.

Beijing said on Tuesday negotiators had reached a consensus on “resolving relevant problems”. Hours later, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said Washington was getting “really close” to a deal, but sticking points remained.

“They keep talking about the ‘phase one’ deal being done possibly soon, but every day is sort of a ping pong back-and-forth of will they or won’t they,” said Everett Millman, precious metals expert with Gainesville Coins in Tampa, Florida.

A third interest rate cut by the Federal Reserve this year has also played a role in boosting risk appetite, and Fed Chair Jerome Powell said on Monday monetary policy was “well positioned” to support the strong labor market.

However, doubts over the strength of the U.S. consumer linger and data on Tuesday showed the Conference Board’s U.S. consumer confidence index missed analysts’ projections.

At 10:31 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average  was up 20.16 points, or 0.07%, at 28,086.63, while the S&P 500 <.SPX> was up 2.10 points, or 0.07%, at 3,135.74. The Nasdaq Composite was up 11.59 points, or 0.13%, at 8,644.08.

Best Buy Co Inc  jumped 7.4% as it forecast strong holiday-quarter earnings, while discount store operator Dollar Tree Inc tumbled 15% after the company projected holiday-quarter profit below expectations, signaling the fallout from the trade dispute. The stock was the biggest on the S&P and the Nasdaq.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co fell 7.9% as the enterprise software maker missed fourth-quarter revenue estimates.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.50-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.37-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 25 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 78 new highs and 35 new lows.

(Reporting by Arjun Panchadar and Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

Disney World’s ongoing battle against ‘nuisance’ alligators

Alligator Trapper at Disney World

By Jeffrey Dastin

(Reuters) – Walt Disney Co has had more than 240 “nuisance” alligators captured and killed over the last 10 years at its Florida theme park property, according to state records.

The records reveal the park’s constant struggle to keep alligators away from humans in a region where the creatures live and breed.

Last week, a 2-year-old boy at the Walt Disney World Resort died after an alligator attack at the edge of a hotel lagoon. Critics questioned why Disney hadn’t posted signs warning guests of the presence of alligators in the area; the company has since installed such signage.

“You’ll never be able to get them all,” said Florida trapper Ron Ziemba, who helped trap and kill nuisance alligators on Disney World property for five years until late 2015. “There are just so many canals, so many waterways. The gators travel a lot.”

As humans encroach into alligators’ habitat, encounters are inevitable, Ziemba said, noting that he has removed the reptiles from a Disney parking lot and from the lobby of a nearby hotel not run by the resort.

Under Florida’s Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program, Disney World’s property has been designated a “targeted harvest area,” meaning the state has issued a blanket permit for the taking of problem alligators in the area.

The state considers an alligator a nuisance if it is at least 4 feet in length and is believed to pose a threat to people, property or pets.

Disney’s alligator harvest permit, which was issued in 2009 and expires in 2019, specifies that the resort can remove up to 300 alligators of more than 4 feet in length from the area during the 10 years covered by the agreement.

Disney has been removing an average of 24 large alligators annually from its property, or about six fewer per year than the permit would allow.

From May 2006 through May 2016, 239 nuisance alligators were removed from Disney property and euthanized, according to documents provided by the state. That does not include six that were removed in the wake of last week’s attack.

The permit designates a state-authorized trapper to remove problem alligators. An additional “special purpose permit” authorizes certain resort employees to trap and kill alligators without a state trapper “where immediate action is required.”

A Disney spokeswoman declined to say whether company employees have euthanized alligators.

“Walt Disney World is responsible and has a comprehensive approach that helps to reduce the potential for interactions between people and alligators,” the Disney spokeswoman said in a statement, noting that staff members are taught to report alligator sightings.

Disney has set aside nearly a third of its land outside Orlando as a wildlife conservation area, she said, and smaller alligators are relocated there.

The state of Florida supports killing rather than relocating large alligators, because they are likely to return to their original location or become a problem in the area where they are relocated.

Trappers generally receive a $30 state stipend for each alligator they remove, but the bulk of their trapping income is from selling the meat and hides of those alligators.

ALLIGATOR COUNTRY

Florida has an estimated 1.3 million wild alligators, or about one for every 15 residents, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

While attacks on humans are rare, the state’s Nuisance Alligator Program receives many complaints about problem alligators. Between 2005 and 2014, the program averaged about 15,000 requests for help each year and authorized the killing of more than 8,000 alligators annually.

U.S. alligator populations declined drastically during the first half of the 20th century, and alligators were listed as an endangered species in 1967, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Since then, with careful management, the population has recovered, and the species was delisted in 1987, though it is still under management by states where it is found.

Tracy Howell, 53, is the state-designated trapper responsible for Disney’s targeted harvest area. He does not work for the theme park, but is authorized by the state to remove and euthanize nuisance alligators when the company identifies a problem.

“Disney has a really good alligator program,” Howell said. The company is diligent, he added, about trying “to keep large alligators away from the public.”

Records show the largest alligator trapped on Disney World property in the last 10 years was 13 feet long and was captured in January 2015. Most of the alligators taken from the area were under 7 feet.

Alligators are often removed from the property alive and killed later, but Howell says he tells his trapping team to euthanize them on the spot if they feel threatened.

Trappers say they generally kill alligators with a bullet to the base of the skull, sometimes delivered by a “bang stick,” a specialized firearm that discharges upon contact with the alligator underwater.

Capturing reptiles alive has the benefit of buying time for processing the meat, because the reptiles begin to rot if they aren’t placed in a cooler within an hour of death, Ziemba said.

“If we’re moving them live, we have cages that we put them in,” Howell said. “You would never even know we were moving an alligator down the highway.”

(Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in New York; Editing by Sue Horton and Leslie Adler)

‘No question’ boy dead after gator attack at Florida Disney resort

A search boat is seen in the Seven Seas Lagoon, in front of a beach at the Grand Floridian, at the Walt Disney World resort in Orlando, Florida

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) – Authorities searched for the body of a 2-year-old boy on Wednesday after the toddler was dragged into a lagoon by an alligator in front of his family during a vacation at Walt Disney World resort in Florida.

The boy was snatched as he played at the water’s edge on Tuesday night, despite his parents’ effort to save him, by an alligator believed to be between 4 and 7 feet (1.2 and 2 meters) long.

Wildlife officials captured and euthanized five alligators from the lagoon to examine them for traces of the child but found no evidence they were involved, said Nick Wiley, head of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The resort closed its beaches and recreational marinas on Wednesday as search teams worked the Seven Seas Lagoon, a man-made lake reaching 14 feet in depth.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, speaking at a news conference about 15 hours after the boy was taken, said, “We know that we are working on recovering the body of a child at this point.

“Our ultimate goal is to try to bring some closure to the family,” he said.

The family, which was vacationing from Nebraska, was not named.

There are “no swimming” signs at the lagoon but the alligator grabbed the boy while his family relaxed nearby on the shore, authorities said.

The boy’s father rushed into the water after the alligator struck and fought to wrestle his child from its grasp, Jeff Williamson, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said earlier.

“The father did his best,” he said. “He tried to rescue the child, however, to no avail.”

The father suffered minor cuts on his arm in the struggle with the gator. Authorities said the boy’s mother tried to rescue him too. A lifeguard who was on duty by the lagoon also was unable to reach the toddler in time.

“The gator swam away with the child,” Williamson said.

SEARCH INCLUDES HELICOPTERS, SONAR

Dozens of sheriff’s deputies and wildlife officials were searching for the boy on Wednesday and expected to use sonar technology, helicopters and a team of divers.

Alligators are not uncommon in the Seven Seas Lagoon, Wiley said.

The wildlife commission works with the resort to remove “nuisance alligators” when they are reported, Wiley said.

Demings said Disney has operated in the area for 45 years and has never had this type of incident occur before.

“We know this is Florida and alligators are indigenous to this region,” Demings said. “Disney has a wildlife management system that is in place and they have worked diligently to ensure that their guests are not unduly exposed to the wildlife here in this area.”

Shares in the Walt Disney Company &lt;DIS.N&gt;, which were up about 0.5 percent in afternoon trading at $98.86, did not appear to have been affected by the incident.

A spokeswoman for Walt Disney World Resort said everyone there was devastated by the tragic accident. “Our thoughts are with the family and we are helping the family,” she said.

The upscale Grand Floridian Grand Resort and Spa is described by Disney as a lavish property combining Victorian elegance with modern sophistication, just one stop away from the Magic Kingdom on the resort’s monorail. Rooms start at $569 per night, according to its site.

Guests can rent motorized boats for cruising or hire a private cabana on shore. Children between 4 and 12 years of age also can embark upon “pirate adventures” on the lagoon.

Despite the prevalence of alligators in fresh water around Florida, Wiley said it was very rare for humans to be attacked.

In May, a Florida man was hospitalized after an alligator bit off his hand and forearm as he sought to elude authorities by running into a lake, according to police.

The alligator incident comes as the Orlando area reels after a gunman killed 49 people at a gay nightclub there on Sunday before dying in a gun battle with police.

It also follows an incident on May 28 when a 3-year-old boy fell into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, causing zookeepers to kill a gorilla to protect the child.

Wednesday’s incident was trending on social media where it reignited a spirited debate over responsible parenting, although some users expressed sympathy for the toddler’s family.

“Dear Internet, can we please have a bit more compassion for a family who saw their son dragged away by an alligator?!! #DisneyGatorAttack,” tweeted Jamie Lapeyrolerie (@jamielynne82).

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Laila Kearney and Amy Tennery in New York; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by W Simon and Bill Trott)

Alligator drags toddler into lagoon at Disney resort in Florida

Early morning view of the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa located in the Magic Kingdom at Disney World in Orlando

(Reuters) –  Recent press conference update: There is “no question” that a 2-year-old boy who was dragged by an alligator into a lagoon at Walt Disney World resort in Florida is dead, the local sheriff said on Wednesday.

“We know that this is a recovery effort at this point,” Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings told a news conference, about 15 hours after the child was attacked by the gator.

(Editing by Daniel Wallis)

Walt Disney World resort in Florida closed its beaches on Wednesday as law enforcement officials hunted for signs of a 2-year-old boy who was dragged by an alligator into a lagoon at the resort despite his father’s rescue attempt, according to officials and CNN reports.

The boy was attacked by the reptile about 9:15 p.m. on Tuesday at the Seven Seas Lagoon at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort &amp; Spa in Lake Buena Vista near Orlando, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said.

The boy was playing in the water while his family, vacationing from Nebraska, relaxed on the shore nearby, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings told a news conference.

“The father entered the water and tried to grab the child and was not successful,” Demings said.

The mother also tried to rescue the boy and the father suffered hand injuries, he added. The family has not been named.

“As a father, as a grandfather we are going to hope for the best in these circumstances but, based on my 35 years of law enforcement experience, we know we have some challenges ahead of us,” Demings told reporters.

He said the animal was thought to be between 4 and 7 feet (1.2 and 2 meters) long.

Wildlife and marine officials were drafted into the search, which ran through the night.

“We’re putting every effort into locating the child and trapping this alligator,” Florida Fish and Wildlife Officer Chad Weber told reporters.

A spokeswoman for Walt Disney World Resort said everyone there was devastated by the tragic accident. “Our thoughts are with the family and we are helping the family,” she said.

On May 28, a 3-year-old boy fell into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, causing zookeepers to kill a gorilla to protect the child.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Laila Kearney in New York; Editing by Fiona Ortiz, Andrew Heavens and W Simon)

Disney hikes security at theme parks with ‘visible safeguards’

Security officers staff the entrance at the Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, U.S. June 13, 2016.

By Barbara Liston

(Reuters) – Walt Disney Co has raised security at its theme parks, the company said on Monday after the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history in Orlando, Florida, the home of Walt Disney World.

“Unfortunately we’ve all been living in a world of uncertainty, and during this time we have increased our security measures across our properties, adding such visible safeguards as magnetometers, additional canine units, and law enforcement officers on site, as well as less visible systems that employ state-of-the-art security technologies,” spokeswoman Jacquee Wahler said in an email statement.

New York-born Omar Mateen, 29, killed 49 people in an Orlando, Florida, nightclub on Sunday. Mateen had scouted Walt Disney World as a potential target, People Magazine said on Monday, citing an unnamed federal law enforcement source. Reuters was unable to verify the report.

Disney World is the best known tourist destination in Orlando, a Florida city with several theme parks.

Outside the Magic Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World, where a U.S. flag flew at half mast in mourning, vacationers Ernst and Rose Lorentzen on Monday said that they had seen more uniformed security guards, marked vehicles and dog units at resort properties since the shooting. They said they had arrived at Disney World on June 8.

Bags of all guests are searched and some are selected for checks with a magnetometer, or metal detector. “They’re really doing a lot of random searches. Maybe one out of eight people,” Rose said.

Their Disney hotel where they are staying also has been more vigilant. They “gave us a look-see and checked our passes at the gate,” said Ernst, who is retired and declined to give his age. “Makes me feel like they’re more alert,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Timothy Ahmann in Washington; Writing by Mohammad Zargham and Peter Henderson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Andrew Hay)

Wall Street rose Monday while investors brace themselves

Traders work on the floor of the NYSE

(Reuters) – Wall Street rose on Monday, with the Dow touching highs not seen since July, as Hasbro and Disney lifted the consumer discretionary sector while investors braced for a flurry of quarterly earnings reports through the week.

Chevron climbed 1.25 percent as crude prices steadied from earlier losses caused by the collapse of talks among major producers to tackle a stubborn global surplus.

A recent rebound in oil and signs that the U.S. economy was recovering have helped stocks rally from a steep selloff earlier this year that had pushed the S&amp;P 500 down as much as 10.5 percent.

The index is now up 2.3 percent in 2016 and only about 2 percent short of its all-time high, while the Dow breached 18,000 for the first time since July 21.

That came despite bleak expectations for first-quarter earnings reports, many of which flow in this week. Earnings of S&amp;P 500 companies are seen falling 7.7 percent on average, with the energy sector weighing heavily, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Investors will closely watch IBM and Netflix as they hand in their reports after the bell. Netflix was down 3.2 percent.

“This is a market where beating and exceeding does not guarantee you a higher stock price, but missing guarantees you’re going to get killed on the downside,” said Jake Dollarhide, chief executive officer of Longbow Asset Management in Tulsa. “That’s the sign of a fragile market.”

At 2:31 pm, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 0.49 percent at 17,985.53 points and the S&amp;P 500 had gained 0.52 percent to 2,091.54. The Nasdaq Composite added 0.34 percent to 4,955.09.

All of the 10 major S&amp;P sectors were higher, led by a 1.2 percent rise in energy. The consumer discretionary sector was up 0.84 percent, led by Hasbro. The toymaker jumped 5.7 percent after reporting better-than-expected quarterly profit and revenue.

Disney rose 2.7 percent after “Jungle Book” dominated the weekend box office, grossing more than $100 million.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 2,066 to 913. On the Nasdaq, 1,925 issues rose and 888 fell.

The S&amp;P 500 index showed 19 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 52 new highs and 16 lows.

(Additional reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

Disney Channel Blocks God On Their Website

If you want to thank God, you can’t do it on the website for the Disney Channel.

A girl celebrating her 10th birthday went on the Disney Channel website and noticed they were asking their visitors for what they were thankful.  Lilly Anderson wrote that she was thankful for “God, my family, my church and my friends.”

When she tried to enter the message, a message in red letters said “Please be nice!”

Lilly called in her parents where mother Julie Anderson said they kept entering information until they removed God and the post was approved by the website.

“I’m not at all anti-Disney but to shame a ten-year-old, to tell her to ‘please be nice’ for thanking god and sharing her faith with others is what is upsetting to me as a mother,” she said.

“I want my daughter, and all children of faith, to know that it is OK to share God and Jesus with their peers,” Julie told me. “I want her to know that she doesn’t have to be silent about her faith. I want her to be strong and soldier on.”

Fox News correspondent Todd Starnes contacted Disney about their banning God from their website.

“Disney employs word filtering technology to prevent profanity from appearing on our websites,” Disney said in a statement.  “Unfortunately, because so many people attempt to abuse the system and use the word “God” in conjunction with profanity, in an abundance of caution our system is forced to catch and prevent any use of the word on our websites.  The company would have been happy to explain our filtering technology to the inquiring family had they contacted us.”