The world's largest theme park will start to reopen tomorrow, but Walt Disney World will be watched carefully as coronavirus cases rise in its home state of Florida and throughout much of the South.
After months of planning, Walt Disney World in Orlando is set to begin the first phase of reopening Saturday, starting with Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom parks. Several other parks are scheduled to reopen next week.
A recent article from the New York Times recounts just how massive this park system is: Disney World employs roughly 75,000 people. Attendance to Disney World's six parks was 93 million visitors in 2019. The park pulled in 37% of the company's revenue last year. It's safe to say closing down for several months has been devastating financially.
Disney officials say they've done everything they can to keep visitors safe, from deep cleaning parks to new social distancing measures in lines and on rides. But the recent nationwide surge in coronavirus cases has hit Florida particularly hard. Confirmed cases have skyrocketed to more than 220,000, with nearly 4,000 deaths, placing Florida behind only New York and California.
Some would-be visitors are sounding the alarm, and Disney World employees have petitioned to delay the reopening as cases surge, CNN reports. But while Disneyland in California has postponed reopening, Walt Disney World is poised to move ahead this weekend. Neighboring park competitors Universal Studios and SeaWorld have already opened with limited capacity.
So what will Disney World's reopening look like?
What's Opening Tomorrow
Walt Disney World announced a phased reopening plan back in May.
It starts with Magic Kingdom and Disney's Animal Kingdom, which will reopen this Saturday, July 11. Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios will follow suit on Wednesday, July 15. Disney Vacation Club, Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, and Disney Springs have also begun reopening.
Disney has confirmed that the parks will be operating at lower capacity, but have not disclosed by how much.
What to Expect at the Parks
The Orlando Sentinel gives a close look at what to expect in this new era of Disney visits as some lucky passholders got to preview the parks yesterday and today. These are some of the measures being taken at parks to improve safety:
Know Before You Go
- You'll need a park reservation to enter
- Capacity is limited, so tickets are harder to get
- Face masks are required for all guests ages 2 and up (including Cast Members)
- Temperature checks may be required in some areas of the parks
Increased cleaning procedures
- Added thousands of hand sanitizing stations
- Park audio instructs visitors to wash hands regularly
Adjustments to allow for social distancing
- Socially distanced parking at Animal Kingdom
- Parades, fireworks, and many indoor shows suspended
- Seat spacing on rides
- Social distance markers and signs
- Plexiglass partitions at shops and restaurants
- “Relaxation stations” implemented: a space to sit socially distanced and take a break from masks
Reduced contact for transactions & experiences
- Reduced contact for transactions and experiences
- No fingerprint scanner at park entrances
- Contactless payment at restaurants and stores
- Character meet-and-greets suspended (Characters will still be visible during spontaneous entertainment, on floats, and in boats)
Amid Florida's growing COVID-19 cases and controversy, Disney World is set to begin reopening tomorrow.
Disney has gone to great lengths to make its Orlando parks safer, with capacity limits, face masks, temperature checks, sanitizing, and social distancing. Will it be enough?