Man on $19,500 family holiday jailed after refusing temperature check at Walt Disney World

Kelly Sills paid a small fortune for an enchanting trip to "the most magical place on Earth".

Instead, the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, resident - like several other Disney World guests who have defied US coronavirus restrictions - visited Orange County, Florida, jail.

Amid heightened precautions for the virus at the tourist attraction, Sills, 47, skipped the temperature screening required of guests, US authorities said.

He was confronted by security about it at a Disney Springs restaurant, the Boathouse, when he yelled and refused to leave, according to an Orange County Sheriff's Office arrest report from February 13. When deputies insisted that he would be charged with trespassing, he noted how much he had spent on his holiday, according to body-camera footage released this week.

"I paid US$15,000 ($A19, 569)," said Sills, handcuffed. "You can't trespass me if I paid US$15,000."

It is unclear how his bill added up to that sum.

He pleaded not guilty to a trespassing charge, according to Orange County Court records.

In an interview Saturday with The Washington Post, Sills said he would have "happily" consented to a temperature screening but had inadvertently walked in through an exit and not realised his error. He partly blamed the security manager for escalating the conflict but admitted that he was in "a bit of a mood" after a day of travel.

He was arrested on the first night of what was a five-day trip with his family - a rare reprieve that he had paid thousands for, he said. Two hotel rooms, air travel and admission to Disney and Universal for seven to eight people set him back, he said.


"Covid is a very serious thing, but so is my vacation with my family," he said.

Sills's arrest, first reported by the Orlando Sentinel, is not the first time guests have been reprimanded over defying coronavirus restrictions at a Disney park. The newspaper reported several skirmishes involving refusals to follow the theme park's rules, including guests spitting on, yelling at and pushing employees tasked with reminding visitors to follow restrictions instated to curb the spread of the virus that can cause the deadly illness Covid-19.

The confrontations at Disney World come as other parts of Florida have increased enforcement when rowdy tourists flocked to the state that Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has promoted as less restrictive. While spring break revellers descended on South Florida, DeSantis praised how busy the area was compared to cities in other states with stricter pandemic guidelines, such as New York City. He has touted the state's distribution of vaccines and said it is safe to visit.

"It's booming here because you can live like a human being," he said at a February media event. "People take precautions, which is great, but you're not locked down. People aren't miserable."

But some local leaders said the "open for business" message that endorses fewer rules could lead to "chaos".

Disney spokeswoman Andrea Finger said conflicts over coronavirus rules are uncommon, with most guests following the requirements shared with them before they travel. Disney requires guests to stay home if they have symptoms, wear masks if they are ages two and up, and undergo temperature checks at some entries.

"Guests have been overwhelmingly supportive of our protocols," she wrote in a statement. "Millions of guests visit our theme parks each year and in rare instances when things of this nature occur, we hold them accountable."

In the police body-camera footage, Sills expressed disbelief that Disney was requiring a temperature check as deputies walked him to a patrol car.

"I'm so ready to be done with this COVID," he told deputies at another point.

As deputies escorted Sills past families and others strolling through the park, he had a change of heart, wanting to undergo a temperature screening.

"Will you take my temperature before you kick me out, please?" he asked in the video.

"They'll do that at the jail," a deputy responded.

"Well, that's good," Sills said.

The Washington Post

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