Walt Disney World Officially Reopens amid Coronavirus Concerns: See Photos of Opening Day
Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, closed in March, as the coronavirus pandemic escalated in the U.S. Now, it's beginning a phased reopening as cases surge in the state
"This morning marks another milestone in the phased reopening of Walt Disney World Resort, as Magic Kingdom Park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park welcome guests for the first time in several months," the park said in a statement. "Our cast members have been eagerly anticipating this moment and are looking forward to making magic today as only they can."
The resort in Orlando, Florida, began the phased process, welcoming visitors back to the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom parks. Epcot and Hollywood Studios will open on July 15, according to a proposal presented to the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force in May.
In a series of images released earlier this week, Disney demonstrated how guests over 2 years old will be wearing required face coverings (including Disney-themed designs), standing in socially distanced lines for rides and getting temperature checks, among many more new practices.
Other changes include requiring visitors to make reservations for each park online prior to admission, significantly lowering the number of guests allowed in, and reducing capacity on rides, various modes of transportation and in restaurants and retail stores.
In order to maintain social distancing, there are markings on the ground showing people where to stand, signs reminding guests to stay six-feet apart, and cast members acting as a “social distance squad” scattered around the parks engaging with guests.
Though most attractions are up and running, sensory-focused interactive play areas for children will remain closed. All character meet-and-greets and shows (including parades and fireworks) are canceled for the time being.
“Cast members will work with guests to make the experience as real, and as magical, as possible,” according to Jim MacPhee, Senior Vice President of Operations. “We hope everyone will do their part to bring the magic of Disney World back into this new environment.”
Disney World’s phased opening is in line with Florida’s coronavirus reopening plan, which has continued to move ahead despite a huge surge in new cases in the state. On July 4, Florida reported 11,458 new coronavirus cases in a single day, according to data from The New York Times.
Florida now has the third-highest case total of the pandemic, after New York and California, with 244,143 cases as of July 10 and 4,101 deaths. The state reported a record 120 deaths on July 9, alone, the latest date for which data was available at the time of writing.
Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration reported Tuesday that at least 56 hospitals are out of space in their ICUs, despite the fact that Gov. Ron DeSantis previously claimed that “hospitals still have a lot of capacity.”
A petition, calling for the Disney World opening date to be pushed back was created by park employee Katie Belisle and posted on June 21, gathered more than 19,000 signatures as of July 10. In a statement to local news outlet WTSP on June 25, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he had no plan to block the opening date.
"We are monitoring all aspects related to COVID-19 in Florida and do not have plans to roll back any approved reopening business plans at this time," the statement read.
On June 24, Disneyland in California, another state seeing rising cases, announced that it had "no choice but to delay" its intended July 17 reopening date. The decision came as the state government did not grant approval and guidelines in time to arrange the opening.
There is still no opening date for Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure. Downtown Disney reopened with new safety precautions in place on July 9.
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