Charles Sykes/Invision/AP/Shutterstock The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World
Walt Disney Company announced on Friday that all salaried and non-union hourly employees are required to be fully vaccinated.
The mandate gives on-site employees 60 days to be compliant.
"At The Walt Disney Company, the safety and well-being of our employees during the pandemic has been and continues to be a top priority. Toward that end, and based on the latest recommendations of scientists, health officials and our own medical professionals that the COVID-19 vaccine provides the best protection against severe infection, we are requiring that all salaried and non-union hourly employees in the U.S. working at any of our sites be fully vaccinated," a statement obtained by PEOPLE begins. "In addition, all new hires will be required to be fully vaccinated before beginning employment."
Disney Disney World
The company adds, "Employees who aren't already vaccinated and are working on-site will have 60 days from today to complete their protocols and any employees still working from home will need to provide verification of vaccination prior to their return, with certain limited exceptions."
For unionized workers, Disney states they "have also begun conversations around this topic with the unions representing our employees under collective bargaining agreements."
"Vaccines are the best tool we all have to help control this global pandemic and protect our employees," Walt Disney Company concludes in the statement.
Dan Anderson /Getty Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
It's unclear if the company is giving employees the option to take a COVID-19 weekly test as other organizations with similar mandates have allowed. Medical and religious exemptions for qualifying employees will be granted, according to Nexstar journalist Scott Gustin.
Walt Disney Company reps had no additional information to provide to PEOPLE.
In addition to the Walt Disney Company, California State, New York City, Veteran Affairs, and big tech companies such as Google have implemented similar policies amid growing concerns of the highly contagious Delta variant.
The Delta variant is likely as contagious as chickenpox and causes more severe illness than other strains of the virus, according to data found in an internal document from the Centers for Disease Control.
Health officials at the CDC said in the document, obtained by the Washington Post, that it's time to "acknowledge the war has changed" as the U.S. struggles to deal with the delta variant with just under half of the country not vaccinated against COVID-19.
The findings back up CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky's decision this week to recommend that fully vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in areas with high rates of COVID-19, she told CNN on Friday after verifying the legitimacy of the document.
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"I think people need to understand that we're not crying wolf here. This is serious," she said. "It's one of the most transmissible viruses we know about. Measles, chickenpox, this — they're all up there." The CDC also announced this week fully vaccinated people with breakthrough cases may spread COVID-19 as easily as unvaccinated people.
As of Friday, 49.5% of Americans (163 million) have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 58% have received at least one dose.
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