The Walt Disney Company has issued a statement that they plan to start reopening their theme parks in Orlando, Florida. The plan has several phases with Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom being open on July 11th and Epcot and Hollywood Studios opening on July 15th. The parks have been closed since January, which means that the company has lost an estimated $1 billion from then through March alone.
Similar to the policies currently in place at Shanghai Disneyland, which reopened on May 11th, the Orlando parks will require all employees and guests over the age of two to wear masks. All employees and guests must have their temperatures checked before being allowed into the park. The company also stated that it’ll be increasing their cleaning and sanitation requirements. In order to maintain social distancing, there will be a limit on the number of guests allowed into the park. This will be controlled by having guests reserve their park passes ahead of time. You’ll no longer have to scan your finger at the park entrance.
In addition, there’ll be no parades, firework displays, open playgrounds and meet and greet with characters since all of these encourage the formation of crowds. There are no longer any single rider lines and all ride lines have markings to promote social distancing. In addition, rides and attractions will have modified seating arrangements to enable distancing between people and there will be hand sanitizer available at the entries and exits. When it comes to merchandise and restaurants, the company said that they’re going to “enable and encourage” contactless payment systems, expand its existing mobile order systems in restaurants, offer more pre-packaged food options, adjust/close buffet-style services until further notice and have signs throughout the parks saying, “HELP US PROTECT THE MAGIC PLEASE LIMIT HANDLING OF THE PRODUCT, IF ASSISTANCE IS NEEDED, PLEASE ASK A CAST MEMBER.”
In order to reopen, the organization had to present their plan to the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force for approval. Just a few hours after submission, the mayor of Orange County sent the letter to the governor to be signed and implemented. This isn’t surprising since similar measures were used in the plan to reopen Disney Springs, the retail-restaurant-entertainment complex on Disney grounds, which started a phased reopening on May 20th. Since then, only about 44 shops and restaurants out of the 168 have reopened.
Disney also announced that their Disney Vacation Club resort in Vero Beach will reopen June 15th and the resorts at Walt Disney World, including the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds, will start gradually reopening June 22nd. For the time being, the company says it’ll temporarily be pausing new ticket sales and hotel reservations in order to give priority to guests with existing tickets and reservations. This will allow existing ticket holders and annual passholders the chance to request reservations before new tickets are sold.
As companies, like Disney, are trying to find a safe way to reopen, some political leaders, from both parties, are sending the message that the pandemic response can’t be political. Many people are taking sides when it comes to what should and shouldn’t be done in relation to how we, as a country, respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of this is due to the example that is being set up some of our leaders, such as the president, who are trying to make the issue a political one.
This type of response has led to many behaviors, like not wearing masks in public, that one side feels strongly for and the other feels strongly against. This polarization should have never been the case. While we can’t, nor should we have the ability to, force people to do things against their will. The goal is to educate the importance of not just protecting ourselves, but protecting others, like our loved ones, neighbors and community. Rather than working together for the benefit of everyone, people are divided, which is going to most likely result in significant consequences that didn’t have to happen.