200321-CY-Disney World Photo

Cast members at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, enjoy the last firework show before the park closed due to COVID-19. Officials made the call to shut the resort March 15 to the end of the month to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Disney resorts worldwide have shut its doors to help prevent the spread of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The closings haven’t just affected families and their loved ones with plans to attend the magical lands during spring break, but also the workers who help staff the parks.

“In an abundance of caution and in the best interest of our guests and employees, we are proceeding with the closure of our theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Paris Resort, beginning at the close of business on Sunday, March 15, through the end of the month,” a Disney spokesperson said in a statement.

Conway’s Katelyn Jones, a cast member in Orlando, Florida, said they found out Disney World was closing March 12 until the end of the month.

“I am still getting paid like normal I just can’t go into work while it’s closed,” she said. “Which is hard because I truly enjoy going into work.”

The ones most affected, she said, are the ones in the Disney’s College Program Internship (CPs), who were told their programs were suspended.

“They were told they had to be out of housing by March 18,” Jones said. “This was heartbreaking for everyone. A lot of locations within The Walt Disney World Resort (WDW) are mostly run by CPs in the closing shifts.

“As hard and sudden as this decision was, I know that Disney doesn’t make decisions lightly and that this was a tough decision for them, especially since CPs are the lifeline of Walt Disney World.”

They’re all a little “uncertain of the times,” they’re in, she said, but understands resort officials wanted to make sure and prioritize the college kids being at home with their families.

“It’s hard for the part-time and full-time cast members, though, because we have grown so close to these cast members who now had to leave so soon and so abruptly, and now we don’t even know when/if we will ever get to see them again,” Jones said. “They live all over the world, some in other countries. We were expecting to have at least two and a half more months with them.”

She did add there have been announcements that the kids whose programs were cut short would be allowed to come back once they open back up in some form or another and while so many things are still unsure, they are still hopeful for the future.

The park officially closed on March 16.

“The last couple of days we were open were very strange and hard days,” Jones said. “That is how a lot of us explained those days ... ‘weird.’ I remember walking into work the last day we were open. As I was walking through the park, everything was quiet and it just felt heavy.”

She said it was sad and weird.

“We really didn’t have a lot of time to process our feelings,” Jones added. “Everyone was joking, ‘I’m not worried about this until Disney closes,’, and now that Disney has closed we’re all a little unsure of what’s is going on.”

The last night in the park, everyone stayed late for the nightly firework show, the final one while the park is closed.

“Our coordinators allowed us to stand out front of our attractions and watch the fireworks together one last time before we closed,” Jones said. “It was a sweet moment for all of us coming together as a family and enjoying a little bit of magic one last time for a little while. It was such a sweet moment and one of my favorite moments so far.”

Although it was sad, knowing they were saying, “See ya’ real soon,” to a lot of the cast members, they were able to take a few minutes and enjoy the fireworks together.

“Now, we just have to wait it out and do our part to keep ourselves healthy and get rested for the day we do open back up,” Jones said. “Even though we work at the most magical place on earth, it’s just like any job ... sometimes it’s easy to get burnt out and forget the importance of our job.

“I feel like this break is a great chance to get refueled and remember that magic we’ve gotten to make for so many guests and that so many guests have gotten to make for us. I am so ready to go back to work and continue making magic for families again.”

Staff writer Hilary Andrews can be reached at handrews@


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