Disney World Opens its Gates with Coronavirus Numbers Rising in Florida

Since the notice of an upcoming reopening back in May, Disney has been working alongside officials on its schedule to start a phased reopening for the Animal Kingdom and the Magic Kingdom. On July 11, following a 116-day closure, Walt Disney World officially reopened in Florida.

Disney’s virus safety protocols include daily cleaning and disinfecting the entire park, limits on the number of visitors, wearing face masks, and temperature checks. It is against this background that Disney planned its reopening, but they did not anticipate the surge in Florida’s Coronavirus cases.

On Wednesday 15 alone, Florida recorded over 9,000 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total of confirmed cases to roughly 224,000, with over 3,800 deaths. Florida has been setting new daily records for COVID-19 cases, according to details that continue to be released by the state’s department of health.

Disney was the last of Central Florida’s theme parks to open its gates—Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando, and Legoland all reopened in early June—but with Florida’s COVID-19 cases rising, the advice of health experts is to stay away.

The escalation in the number of infections is continuing a trend that kicked off when Florida began reopening its businesses earlier in June. In response, numerous cities and counties have issued emergency directives entailing the wearing of face coverings in public spaces and concentrating efforts in businesses that are not following social distancing rules.

The precautions Disney has taken for its parks go above and beyond what’s required by the state of Florida. In addition to limiting capacity through its park pass reservation system and requiring face masks for guests age 2 and up, social distancing markers have been placed in queues throughout the park, and ride vehicles are disinfected every two hours. 

Despite all of these, a member of the board of directors for the Infectious Disease Society of America, Dr. Tina Tan says “I think this is the wrong time for them to open,” and added “If it were in an area where you weren’t seeing the surge in the number of COVID cases and everybody behaved and did what they were supposed to do—which is never going to happen—you would have much less of a chance of spread. But now you’re bringing into the equation the fact that the state is probably having the largest concentration of COVID cases in the country”.

In a MoveOn.org petition that has been signed by over 7,000 people, Disney’s employees are calling the park’s officials to re-think their plan to open doors to the public amidst a resurgence of Coronavirus cases in Florida. In the petition, the park’s workers are worried that the virus is not yet gone and that new cases continue to be reported daily.

The request to reschedule reopening also recounts that theme parks are non-essential businesses and therefore unfair for the staff members to risk their lives or put their loved ones at risk by returning to work while the virus rages on. The concern was also for safety for Disney’s guests and their families who are more important than making revenue.

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