Coronavirus pandemic be damned, Disney World is set to reopen on July 11
It’s true — come Saturday, Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, will once again be open to the public. Despite the fact that Florida continues to make headlines as a coronavirus hotspot, the “most magical place on earth” plans to once again welcome guests behind the gates for food, fun, and let’s be real, a solid shot at contracting Covid-19.
As of Wednesday, Florida’s Department of Health reported 223, 783 cases of coronavirus in the state, with 10,044 new cases among Florida residents in just the last 24 hours. There have been nearly 4,000 deaths linked to the novel coronavirus in Florida, with 48 new deaths in Florida residents in the past 24 hours.
In case you harbor any illusions about being young and healthy and safe and not in the general coronavirus-afflicted demographic, consider this: The median age of coronavirus cases in the Orlando area, where Disney World is located, is 33. Also as of Wednesday per CNN, at least 56 hospitals in Florida have reached capacity in their intensive care units. Another 35 hospitals have 10 percent availability or less.
It also merits mentioning that the State of Florida itself has issued a public health advisory due to Florida having the third-highest case total of the pandemic, coming behind only New York and California. The state is urging the public to practice social distancing and “avoid crowds, closed spaces, close contact… large gatherings and close quarters.”
Spoiler alert: That is virtually impossible at a theme park like Disney World. And trust me, I don’t want that to be true. As an annual passholder, I’ve invested quite a bit of money into the Disney World experience. Hitting the parks is one of my family’s all-time favorite pastimes. But you won’t see us there anytime soon.
Last week, we received an invitation to attend a special passholder preview prior to the park’s reopening, which we declined. But I was able to see what the preview might have looked like thanks to photos of the cast member preview. Sure, there were far fewer people at Disney than normal (it was just for cast members, after all). Even with the smaller crowds, though, you could see people (who were at least wearing masks) clumped together in typical Disney-crowd fashion. There certainly wasn’t six feet between guests waiting in line to ride the oh-so-popular Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
According to Disney’s chief medical officer, Dr. Pamela Hymel, Disney is going all out with their virus safety efforts. “From increased cleaning and disinfecting across our parks and resorts, to updated health and safety policies, we have reimagined the Disney experience so we can all enjoy the magic responsibly,” Hymel wrote in a blog post on Tuesday.
Those safety measures include sanitizing rides, having “mask-free relaxation zones” when guests need a mask break, temperature checks at the gate, face coverings for people two and older, and limiting the number of people who can enter.
The problem? Disney can’t possibly safeguard entirely against human error… or entitlement. In the Disney passholder groups I’m part of, I’ve seen numerous horror stories of guests lashing out at cast members since Disney Springs reopened. The primary reason for such outbursts seems to be cast members asking guests to wear or reposition their masks.
This is Florida, y’all. It’s oppressively hot and muggy on most days, especially in the summer. It seems terribly naive to believe everyone is going to abide by the new safety protocols. When you go to Disney, you sort of accept that there will always be people who don’t think the rules apply to them.
So, while I absolutely can’t wait to return to Disney World for some of that beloved Disney magic, I can wait. Because I’m far more eager to return to a version of normal that doesn’t include the daily shattering of COVID-19 case records — and I fear Disney World reopening will only prolong the latter.
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