This will be the first Disney location in the U.S. to reopen after all North American properties closed indefinitely in March

By Gabrielle Chung
May 05, 2020 08:51 PM
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The castle before the update with a blue and gray color palette
| Credit: Gene Duncan/Disney Parks via Getty

Disney has announced that Disney Springs in Florida will begin a phased reopening on May 20, though the rest of Walt Disney World — including theme parks and resort hotels — will remain closed for now.

The shopping and dining destination will be the first Disney location in the U.S. to open back up to the public after Disneyland and Walt Disney World closed indefinitely in March due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. There is currently no update about when any part of Disneyland in California may reopen.

Matt Simon, Vice President of Disney Springs, announced the attraction's phased reopening on Thursday, sharing that "a limited number of shopping and dining experiences that are owned by third-party operating participants will begin to open during this initial phase."

In order to keep everyone safe and healthy, Simon indicated that a number of operational changes will be made. These include "increased cleaning procedures, the use of appropriate face coverings by both cast members and guests, limited-contact guest services and additional safety training for cast members."

They will also have limitations on capacity, parking and operating hours during the first phase of the reopening.

Disney Parks’ chief medical officer Dr. Pamela Hymel wrote in a blog post on Tuesday that the company is considering “how best to begin the reopening process, including a gradual reopening and/or partial reopening of certain locations” following news that Shanghai Disneyland will open at a limited capacity on May 11 with added safety precautions.

She noted at the time that several Disney locations were considering a "phased reopening" of retail and dining locations before opening the gates to their theme parks, which has now begun.

"As you can imagine, managing guest density in queues, restaurants, hotels, ride vehicles and other facilities throughout the park and across the resort is a major focus, as we implement physical distancing guidelines based on guidance from health authorities, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and appropriate government agencies," Hymel wrote.

Other new procedures Disney is considering to roll out include "increased cleaning and disinfection" of high-traffic areas and "screening and prevention support" for guests.

According to the company, health measures such as adding hand sanitizers and handwashing stations across its parks "have already been implemented."

Disney had closed all of its attractions, hotels and stores in North America. This includes the Aulani resort in Hawaii, which was the last Disney property in the U.S. to close in the midst of the pandemic on March 23.

On April 1, the parks stoked rumors about a potential end date to the closure by opening new reservations starting June 1. They noted at the time that the reservations would be flexible, and guests would be able to modify their bookings if the park does not reopen by the date of their reservation, or if it opens earlier.

Disney's theme parks and cruise businesses have been severely impacted by the coronavirus crisis. The company reported a 58 percent drop in operating income for 2020's second quarter, compared to the same period last year, during a call with analysts on Tuesday, according to CNBC. Disney also said Tuesday that it estimated that $1 billion of revenue has been lost due to park closures.

With movie theaters closed in addition to park closures, Disney said in the call that its quarterly profit fell more than 90 percent, MarketWatch reported.

On March 12, PEOPLE first reported that Disneyland and Disney World would both close over that weekend, following the closure of other major tourist attractions and events around the world.

The governors of both California and Florida had already declared a state of emergency in order to redirect funds to fight the spread of the virus in their states. President Trump declared a national state of emergency the following day.

They initially planned for a two-week closure, reopening at the end of March. But on March 27, the company announced that both parks would be closed indefinitely.

Disney shared the news in a statement on their official Twitter, writing, “While there is still much uncertainty with respect to the impacts of COVID-19, the safety and well-being of our guests and employees remains The Walt Disney Company’s top priority.”

In April, it was announced that Disney World would furlough 43,000 union employees due to the ongoing closure. According to the Services Trade Council Union, the company reached an agreement to maintain health insurance and other benefits during the furlough, which began April 19.

As of May 5, there have been at least 1.2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, with 75,288 deaths from coronavirus-related illness.

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