What Will Disney World Look Like When It Reopens?

April 22, 2020, 6:43 PM · What will a day at Walt Disney World be like when theme parks reopen? Fans have been asking that question pretty much ever since the parks closed, but business and community leaders in Central Florida today continued the process of answering that question for all local attractions in a meeting organized by area elected officials.

No one's confirming any details yet, beyond Universal Orlando officials stating that they are, indeed, looking at some of the measures suggested in that survey the resort put out last week, including temperature checks, social distancing, and capacity limits.

The broad outlines of what a location needs to do to be safe are not secret. Since this is a new virus - for which there is no vaccine and no one has any immunity until they've had it and recovered - the only way to prevent infections is by keeping people safely apart from one another.

How could a theme park possibly do that? Remember that theme parks employ a lot of operational experts. They have found ways to manage crowds of tens of thousands of people safely and peacefully, given a wide variety of constraints. I have no doubt that they can design ways to manage visitors safely through this crisis, too, even if their solutions end up looking nothing like theme parks' standard operating procedures.

You might think that the first question to address is how many people a park can admit safely at one time, given the need for social distancing. But I'd like to suggest that's actually one of the last questions to be answered. To get there, you have to think from the inside out, starting with reimagining the operations experience within each attraction, restaurant, and shop within the park.

If you don't know me by know, I love ops. I worked several years as an operations host, trainer, and lead in Magic Kingdom West Attractions at Walt Disney World. How people move through theme parks and their attractions fascinates me. I find the design of queues, preshows and loading areas every bit as exciting as the attractions they serve. It's amazing how rearranging a few boxes on a loading dock can help increase a ride's hourly throughput by more than 100 people, but I saw that happen when I worked in the parks.

The study of guest flow through physical space is a known science, so designers don't have to work without guidance here. We simply have changed the parameters within which that flow may happen. Let's consider a few new givens:

The first parameter requires screening at the park entrance, whether that's an actual health check or a paperwork check to see that guests and employees have passed a recent health screening elsewhere. At a minimum, you can check people with a temperature scan at bag check, denying entry to those showing a fever. It's not foolproof, as it's been shown that people without a fever can spread the virus, but it's a start that reduces risk to those who visit.

Ideally, government would be checking the entire population, and only those who have shown immunity or at least tested negative for the virus within a reasonable amount of time would be allowed entry to the park. But no large community in America has established a testing program on that scale yet. So parks are left with the choice of remaining closed until their community does, or crafting a testing procedure of their own.

The health/bag check also would include a mask check, ensuring that everyone was wearing one. Park employees would be empowered to eject anyone inside the park (outside an eating area) who was not wearing their mask. This takes care of the first two parameters.

But it's that third one where things get tricky, because it runs counter to parks' physical design. Theme park attractions are designed to put through as many people as possible, leading to ride vehicles and show spaces that cram people together. That design principle has to go away now, with new restrictions on how closely unrelated parties may be placed.

Physical modifications can be part of a solution here, but new load procedures and training for operators must be included as well. In addition to physical spacing for guests, points of physical contact must be considered as well. The virus lives on surfaces, so for every surface that a guest touches, it must either be cleaned after every guest or the guest's hands covered when they touch it.

Let's take the example of Disney's Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. It's a small, enclosed space, so you would have to limit each capsule on one party of up to six people. No more combining parties or taking single riders to fill out a load. That means you could be operating each ride unit with anywhere from one-sixth to its full capacity.

The upside is that parties now can sit wherever they want inside the ride, where the pilot seats offer a far better experience that the other four seats on the attraction. But those seats' interactive stations would have to be set to run in automatic mode, as they likely would be empty for many, if not most, parties.

What about all the stuff that people touch on this interactive attraction? It's not practical to wipe down and sanitize every touch point between each ride, so the easier solution is simply to provide each rider with a pair of disposable gloves as they enter the cockpit. The unload cast member would then collect the gloves as they exit the cockpit. It's an extra expense and an environmental waste, yes, but that's probably the best trade-off from the company's perspective here.

Park ops teams then need to figure out the appropriate changes to every other attraction in the park. Maybe you load only every other row in a theater attraction, instructing operators to keep parties in the same row at least six feet apart. On rides, you need to not load enough rows or cars in between parties as to ensure six feet of distance between them at all times.

What about in the queue? The easiest approach is to eliminate them. Go to virtual queues for every attraction in the park. Disney and Universal have the programming in place to support this, but other parks might now, delaying their opening while they develop that tech. But even with virtual queues, people will still need to line up at the load point, as people's return for their appointed ride time is never done to the per-minute or even per-second accuracy that ride systems might require. To keep people safe there, parks will need to lay down spacing markers within their queues, as grocery stores around the Los Angeles area have done on the sidewalks outside their stores.

Restaurants can eliminate or minimize their queues by requiring mobile ordering, but then they still need to define separated areas for people waiting to pick up an order. Tables must be removed to maintain adequate distance between parties. Employees will be needed to seat people and to keep people from taking tables or loitering if they are not eating.

Stores would need to staff a door monitor to limit the number of people inside at once. Display units might need to be removed so that people can maintain proper social distancing while inside. And, again, markers would need to be laid down to ensure proper spacing at registers. Remember that spacing isn't just six feet in front and behind you. It's six feet to your side, too, which means that some registers might need to close to ensure that lateral spacing, as well.

Once parks run the numbers to determine how many people its reconfigured attractions, restaurants and shops can accommodate, only then can they figure out how many people they safely can admit to the park at once. Remember, without queues and open stores, parks lose a lot of the capacity into which they can stuff excess crowds. The last thing you want after doing all this is to have people milling about close to other parties, with nothing to do while they wait for their next virtual queue return because they can't get into any restaurants or shops.

At that point, knowing how many people they can admit and how much they might be able to expect from guest spending in capacity-limited stores and restaurants, parks can do the math to figure out whether reopening under these limitations makes financial sense. I suspect that Disney and Universal - with their relatively high guest spend numbers - could make this type of operation work, at least for a few months. I am not so sure about other parks.

We don't know yet know what individual parks and resorts will do in response to this virus... other than to remain closed until further notice, as they all now are. But planning for that reopening is underway, and it's helpful for fans to understand the scope and difficulty of making those plans.

Remember, it's not just about being a good citizen and doing whatever possible to limit the spread of the virus. It's also about reassuring potential visitors that they can feel safe in your park. If whatever a park does - or does not do - in response to this challenge fails to make people feel comfortable visiting, they won't.

And if people don't come, there's no point in opening, is there?

Replies (51)

April 22, 2020 at 7:51 PM

Spot on, Robert!

April 23, 2020 at 12:14 AM

Robert, what's your best guess as to how many guests they could let into Disneyland at one time if they followed the sensible guidelines you described?
20,000? 10,000?

April 23, 2020 at 12:42 AM

I know I’m going to get slack for this, but please hear me out. First of all, I don’t think mask wearing needs to be mandatory. At least not for guests. Sure, have the cast members wearing them but make it optional for guests. How do you expect parents to keep their young kids wearing their mask? How unbearable is it going to be in the hot months constantly breathing in your own exhaust? I just don’t see mandatory mask wearing as an option when it comes to enforcement. Secondly, I always thought theme parks, especially Disney, served as an escape from our everyday life. To live in a world of magic. Do we really want to be constantly reminded of the outside chaos? I think temp checks and all of that are fine. Limit the amount of people in the parks per day and that’s it. If you want to go, go. If you want to stay home that’s fine too. Set reasonable limits and then give people the freedom to make the right decision for them.

April 23, 2020 at 1:20 AM

This is really smart analysis, Robert. And as exhaustive as this list is, it’s still probably not all of the issues Disney has to consider. It’s a remarkable moment in time.

GoofTroop, I won’t give you slack, but I will disagree. If the parks open anytime before 2021, I’d be pretty surprised if masks were not part of the plan. One point to consider: Wynn Resort in Las Vegas released its pitch for what its reopened casino strategy would look like, and its plan included mandatory masks. Casinos and theme parks aren’t a perfect match, but I think it could be an early indicator of what the strategy might be. With all that said, I agree with you that masks in Florida, in particular, sounds like a real deterrent. But I think the option for guests will be to endure the discomfort or postpone the visit indefinitely. Not great, but that’s where we are.

April 23, 2020 at 1:22 AM

I think the first question that needs to be addressed is how much responsibility parks have in protecting their guests from the virus. That's not to say they shouldn't do anything, but is it reasonable to expect them to go above and beyond what other businesses are required to do, especially when the chances of catching it at the park won't be significantly higher than any other popular outdoor recreation spot? Should guests be expected to realize that visiting a theme park is not an essential activity and therefore they are voluntarily putting themselves at increased risk of potentially coming into contact with the virus? Wellness checks and social distancing to the extent possible without negatively affecting business are one thing, but if people are allowed to congregate at the beach why should a theme park be mandated to keep six feet between guests at all times and require a mask in hot and humid summer weather (unless it's a blanket order for the region)? From what I've read, while not enough data is available to be conclusive, it is speculated that the spread of the virus is much less in an outdoor environment, so it seems that theme parks may be less of a potential breeding ground than a lot are making them out to be.

As for what will be done, many parks are starting to reopen in China (including Shanghai Disneyland, which is currently in the cast member retraining phase), so I think that will give us a good idea of what to expect. Common changes seem to be:

-Restricting the number of visitors through capacity limits and reserved dates/times on entry tickets
-Medical screening at entry, including temperature checks and questionnaires
-Requiring masks be worn outside of dining areas
-Spacing guests out in queue lines and/or implementing virtual queuing
-Seating every other row on rides, and not grouping unrelated parties in the same row/ride vehicle
-Not putting on live entertainment outside of a permanent venue

I think we will see similar at US parks, with some relaxation as things improve. I think it's unlikely we'll see significantly more, both because it won't be viable practically and because parks are wanting to add as little as possible to their operating expenses.

April 23, 2020 at 2:28 AM

This is interesting as an academic exercise, and whilst I'm sure the parks are already running the numbers on these things theme parks are still a long distance off reopening in a safe or responsible manner. China may be able to reopen soon, but based on their reported numbers (which I'll take with a grain of salt), they've had 1000 new cases nationwide in the last month. They seemingly have control. They also have leadership and a population used to obeying orders. The rest of the world is far off this.

Temperature monitoring I think will be here to stay, at most theme parks and airports. If you come in with a fever, sorry have a refund and go home.

Masks likewise would be mandatory in the short term. Sorry Gooftroop, but immersion is a luxury we'll be missing for a while.

The issue with theme parks is that the numbers in the US are too high, and they're not coming down. You've stopped the spread growing exponentially, but cases are stable at over 25000 new cases daily for the last 2 weeks. Until you get it under control, opening up safely is a dream. People going out in this environment aren't just putting themselves at risk, but everyone else too.

The other issue then is that of tracing. New cases need to be identified and contacts traced to stamp out outbreaks as they occur. This allows for certain industries to be opened as contact is minimal and easy to trace. Theme parks would prove a major difficulty. Possible options would include tracking of mobile phone signals around the park to monitor possible guest contact. Difficult, huge issues with privacy, but feasible if you want to do this responsibly.

Distancing goes without saying, and numbers will be down for a number of reasons.

Cleaning of rides will be difficult, and gloves would only help a small amount. Hand sanitiser would likely be more effective.

As for immunity post infection, this is still not confirmed. There have been reports of reinfection in China (once again, grain of salt) and also South Korea (much more reliable). Whilst those reinfected have been reported to be less severely sick, they would still be vectors for transmission of the disease.

Like everyone here, I can't wait for parks to reopen. I just can't see it being anytime soon. Also being overseas I don't anticipate I'll be able to visit the US anytime soon.

Keep safe.

April 23, 2020 at 6:00 AM

I've lived in FloriDUH a long time ... don't be so sure that they won't try and reopen the parks much soon than anyone thinks. Corruption and incompetence are part of the fabric of the State. As an example, Florida is currently trying to align itself in an "Axis of Stupid" with other Deep South states looking to reopen against all common sense and scientific consensus.

April 23, 2020 at 6:43 AM

Holiday photos will be interesting as we will look like bank robbers on all of them.

What will the impact also be on Disney Springs as Social Distancing rules will likely have to apply there, too. How will they regulate the numbers prior to parking your car?

April 23, 2020 at 7:56 AM

I think Disney should not allow anyone over the age of 63 or those with compromised immune systems to enter as these people are the highest risk. A doctors note stated a full physical has been done and customer has no immune issues. Temperatures should be taken. Hand sanitizers offered before and after each ride and at restaurants. Each customer signs a waiver to enter at their own risk. Virtual lines are fine and separator markers for lines like at grocery store. No one has to go to Disney like the grocery store. Masks do not belong at Disney. Disney could offer rapid tests the day before entry at Disney springs and hotel areas. Government could subsidize test as more are needed anyway. The death rates per capita are substantially lower than anticipated before the shut down. It light of the overestimate and similar mortality rate to the flu and pneumonia its time to go back to living for those of us at low risk. Astronauts can't go into space without a physical. During Corona, the general population should get a physical before taking off on all Travel.

April 23, 2020 at 7:57 AM

I think Disney should not allow anyone over the age of 63 or those with compromised immune systems to enter as these people are the highest risk. A doctors note stated a full physical has been done and customer has no immune issues. Temperatures should be taken. Hand sanitizers offered before and after each ride and at restaurants. Each customer signs a waiver to enter at their own risk. Virtual lines are fine and separator markers for lines like at grocery store. No one has to go to Disney like the grocery store. Masks do not belong at Disney. Disney could offer rapid tests the day before entry at Disney springs and hotel areas. Government could subsidize test as more are needed anyway. The death rates per capita are substantially lower than anticipated before the shut down. It light of the overestimate and similar mortality rate to the flu and pneumonia its time to get back to living and be responsible for ourselves.

April 23, 2020 at 10:32 AM

Attractions where you are expected to huddle up will be interesting such as the stretching room on Haunted Mansion or the resistance transport ship on Rise of the Resistance. I think wearing a mask all day may be the factor that makes most people decide a trip to a theme park isn't worth it. You're tired and sweaty most of the day anyway. Those masks are going to get gross. I hate using them just to go to the grocery store for 30 minutes.

April 23, 2020 at 10:49 AM

It will be a completely different experience. It won't be Disney ... at least not for a long time.

Character meet and greats will be a thing of the past. No more photos of families arm in arm with Mickey or Minnie. The princess experiences -- a huge advantage Disney has held over Universal -- will virtually vanish. There will no longer be little girls hugging Anna or the Little Mermaid -- chatting and calling the guest's children by name. They will only get glimpses in shows or parades.

Character breakfasts? I doubt we will see them return in 2020. These meals were doing more than 1000 guests daily.

Immersion will be gone. The presence of masks and gloves will be constant reminders of the harsh realities of the world. It will remind people they are on Earth -- undermining any hope that someone can escape by suspending their beliefs and enjoying a visit to one of the countries at EPCOT or a journey to Pandora or Batuu.

It's quite heartbreaking, actually.

April 23, 2020 at 11:03 AM

Actually, wearing a mask on Pandora (or Batuu), might actually increase the immersiveness of those lands. Humans can't breathe on Pandora, which is the whole reason why there are Avatars/Na'Vi, so wearing masks would at least help to explain how tourists can walk around the Valley of Mo'ara. It's always been assumed that Batuu had Earth-like breathable air, but there's nothing preventing Imagineers from creating a dust-storm or other storyline within Galaxy's Edge that would force all inhabitants and visitors to don face coverings.

I agree that meet and greets are problematic, though head characters probably don't have an issue given that you could theoretically sanitize the exterior of the full=body costume after each interaction (it would certainly slow down the line) or coat costumes with a special compound that could prevent transmission of the virus (similar to how Microban kills bacteria). If necessary, you could have the actor remove the costume to be steam cleaned and put on a freshly sanitized outfit between each party. The logistics would be incredibly complicated and likely expensive to execute, but theoretically plausible to do for at least the Big 5. Princesses and other face characters are a different story though.

I think every buffet on property will probably have to go, or at least turn into a cafeteria-style line where guests are not allowed to serve themselves.

April 23, 2020 at 11:32 AM

It will be interesting to be sure. Sadly, of course, there are going to be people who still insist "oh, the worst was over back in Feburary, the numbers are inflated" and go in like normal. And you can bet there will be those who will throw a fit when told they should wear a mask with "don't try and curtail my freedom!"

I agree with the concerns it won't feel the same but then, that's the point, things aren't the same. Too many people think that when states reopen, businesses leap right back to where they were in early March when there are still going to be scores of changes (pretty sure any dining out is going to shift to tables spread out more, etc). It's the same sort of challenge for sports too as until a vaccine is found (and you can bet every biolab on the planet is working on that now), it's not going to be how it was three months ago.

It comes down to the guests and who decides to abide by rules and those who ignore them. As we all know, it doesn't matter how much they try, Disney can never truly control just what their guests do.

April 23, 2020 at 12:52 PM

The Scottish Government is starting to talk about it’s strategy now. Okay, the Scottish contribution to theme parks is one bush league park, and the Edinburgh Dungeons, it’s starting to give us some idea of what to expect.

No light switch. A new normal of living with the virus. Some outdoor activities might resume sooner (which might be good for M&D’s, our bush league park) but live sports and concerts? Forget it. There’s talk of schools and the like being reconfigured... if that’s the case I can’t see how the Dungeons can operate in its very cramped spaces.

April 23, 2020 at 12:54 PM

Don't kill me. Just a little perspective: This virus finds a way (like all viruses) to travel through populations. There is a lot of group think going on that social distancing, masks, and Purell some how help limit the spread. The fact is there is no evidence of this (check out the hospitalization rates of the US with heavy-handed house arrest orders versus Sweden with no house arrest order- they have less! Or even South Carolina and Florida (light) compared to New York and Michigan (heavy handed.) There is simply is NO substantive difference, which is just to say that the only thing that ends a virus is herd immunity (now accomplished in Sweden, for instance). The only metric that should matter and was the basis for the economic shut-down in the beginning was hospital capacity- that was and is being achieved. In San Diego only 500 beds were used and 6,500 remained empty. I hope governments will soon realize that keeping Disneyland locked-down is counter productive. The more the virus gently spreads, the quicker the pandemic ends. This is how ALL the other pandemics ended (e.g. 1918, 1957, 1968, 1997, 2003, 2009). And chances are you have probably already been exposed to this flu virus- it's been traveling throughout the US since February. I'm pro choice-- don't want to go to Disneyland, don't go.

April 23, 2020 at 12:58 PM

I think it would be an interesting academic exercise to look at the post of a lot of us before march 15. I will bet a lot of the people who are now so pessimistic (and want us in metaphorical full condom rubber suits to go to the park) wrote that they were willing to go that weekend right before the parks closed. Since park capacity is going to be down anyway, I don't see why disney and universal cannot just require all guests to stay at their hotels or a good neighbor hotel that is contracted to do the covid rapid test and get a negative (customer is not contagious result). You arrive the day before your park visit before six pm and check in. The hotel clerk takes the test sample from everyone. The parks should have to commit to not charging more for the room than they have in the past for that month. Once that is done, we should not need to wear masks in the park.

As a practical matter, even the most liberal governor is going to have to allow their population to go back to work soon. There are acceptable risks that all people will have to accept, or the country is quickly headed to bankruptcy in just a few years. It it suicide for even the US Gov to take on much more debt than we already have. We had already been irresponsible and elected big government politicians for decades (having one of the highest debt to GDP ratios of any country in the world going into this crisis). Believe me people, the US gov't is not that far away from bankruptcy if we continue with this borrowing. International banks could suddenly (at any time) downgrade the US's credit rating and economic disaster would occur very suddenly and make covid look like the good ole days.

April 23, 2020 at 12:58 PM

I think it would be an interesting academic exercise to look at the post of a lot of us before march 15. I will bet a lot of the people who are now so pessimistic (and want us in metaphorical full condom rubber suits to go to the park) wrote that they were willing to go that weekend right before the parks closed. Since park capacity is going to be down anyway, I don't see why disney and universal cannot just require all guests to stay at their hotels or a good neighbor hotel that is contracted to do the covid rapid test and get a negative (customer is not contagious result). You arrive the day before your park visit before six pm and check in. The hotel clerk takes the test sample from everyone. The parks should have to commit to not charging more for the room than they have in the past for that month. Once that is done, we should not need to wear masks in the park.

As a practical matter, even the most liberal governor is going to have to allow their population to go back to work soon. There are acceptable risks that all people will have to accept, or the country is quickly headed to bankruptcy in just a few years. It it suicide for even the US Gov to take on much more debt than we already have. We had already been irresponsible and elected big government politicians for decades (having one of the highest debt to GDP ratios of any country in the world going into this crisis). Believe me people, the US gov't is not that far away from bankruptcy if we continue with this borrowing. International banks could suddenly (at any time) downgrade the US's credit rating and economic disaster would occur very suddenly and make covid look like the good ole days.

April 23, 2020 at 1:25 PM

I am in healthcare and participate in daily calls with health systems and Government agencies around the US and this gives me some perspective as to what is being discussed for "Phase 2".

I believe both Universal and Disney will be under increased pressure to open by shareholders, employees and guests. The difference will be how the Governor of FL and CA view lifting the stay at home orders. Theme parks in FL will most likely open near Memorial Day and CA is a wildcard...and could realistically remain closed thru the Summer.

As you enter the park, lots of announcements. Social distancing will be suggested, facemasks and hand disinfectant will be strongly recommended and sold (i.e. think mouse ears on a mask). At the end of every ride you will be reminded to disinfect your hands, with the sanitizer attached to your belt loop or you can buy one in the giftshop when you review your photos.

Social distancing, wearing masks and washing your hands is actually common in Asian countries, who've been doing it for years. In moving forward, this is our new normal and you'll begin to see the majority of people in public areas wearing PPE. There will be "hot spots" popping up and being an election year, critics will be heard often. A BIG hot spot in Orlando, could close the parks but everyone is implementing disinfection protocols to reduce this possibility.

Until a vaccine is found, this is our new normal in movie theatres, sporting events and amusement parks. The wild card in all of this is current liability laws which you'll hear more about in the coming days.

April 23, 2020 at 1:52 PM

@Sterlingguy I agree 100%.

April 23, 2020 at 2:17 PM

Perhaps the first thing guests see when Disney reopens will be the executives diving into their new $1.5 billion bonuses Scrooge McDuck style...

April 23, 2020 at 3:59 PM

@vixbulldog points out the key issue, California vs Florida. Let's just ignore the massive political debate and face up to the fact that Florida is no doubt going to be more lax on things than California (just consider California has shut down the entire TV and movie industry while Florida has declared pro wrestling an "essential service").

Now, obviously, Disney, Universal and Sea World are not going to have the bad publicity of more infections by them going about their business yet it's very obvious that the rules alone mean Orlando is going to be getting back on track sooner than California will. Which can be a good study for how this works yet it also underscores how the differing states affect things.

To use another example, Illinois was one of the first states to shut down restaurants on March 16th and then shelter orders on 21st. Now, obviously, having Chicago means the state numbers are large yet the fact we got a jump on it earlier is helping with a curve so hopeful we can start reopening stuff in June. Gurnee, where Six Flags Great America is, is roughly two hours from Chicago so up in the air at the moment how it'll work. Compare that to Ohio who waited a bit longer for shelter but not enough cases and the question of how Cedar Point/King's Island will be affected.

Again so much up in the air with the summer months ahead yet Sterlingguy is right that even folks who agree with shelter orders don't want to stay at home for months on end and it has to reopen sooner rather than later, hopefully, handled better.

April 23, 2020 at 4:16 PM

The thing with opening parts of the economy and subsequent CoVid cases, is you'll never know how/where someone got it- at the local supermarket, back yard bbq with family or Disneyland? ** With vast numbers of old people in whole retirement communities (like The Villages - population 122,000), Florida started their lock-down on 4/1, 10 days AFTER New York yet has lower deaths per million than New York. Tell me again what the lock-downs are supposed to accomplish? (oh yeah- the big spike it going to happen soon they keep telling us). My fact starved governor Newsom is just stretching the Coved curve closer to election day. And plans to keep Disneyland closed the entire summer!

April 23, 2020 at 4:29 PM

So much wrong to unpack so little time.

>>The fact is there is no evidence of this

The fact is you’re wrong. Social distancing aver the three weeks we were told it was going to take for the full impact to start to be seen radically slashed the doubling rate in the Uk. Hospitals we thought would be overloaded, aren’t.

>> The more the virus gently spreads, the quicker the pandemic ends

And the more people die. But who cares in grandma is dead, I’m going to Disney world, amirite?

>> And chances are you have probably already been exposed to this flu virus-

It’s not a flu virus.

>> Florida started their lock-down on 4/1, 10 days AFTER New York yet has lower deaths per million than New York. Tell me again what the lock-downs are supposed to accomplish?

Yeah, because Florida is just as sense as New York and just as much as a global crossroads. Totally comparable. /not.

April 23, 2020 at 4:48 PM

I agree with much what you all have said - social distancing will be a priority (as much as you can distance yourself from someone else in a theme park); virtual queues and mobile ordering will be implemented on a wider scale; character meet-and-greets will probably be limited to masked characters; hand sanitizer stations will be everywhere; and temp checks will be part of the entry process, however flawed a temp check may be. However, I don't see Disney mandating face masks, simply because wearing a face mask for eight or 10 hours (or however long a person stays in the park) in the Florida heat will be miserable, and tears will be shed by the youngest visitors. For an adult, wearing a face mask for 30 minutes to an hour while at an air conditioned grocery store is uncomfortable, but it's bearable.

April 23, 2020 at 6:10 PM

It won't be the same experience ... It won't give guests the blanket reassurance that they are in a CONTROLLED ENVIRONMENT ... And that's the problem.

April 23, 2020 at 5:25 PM

My honest opinion, and I'm not on the same page as most of you at all. The elderly and vulnerable should remained quarantined and protected. That's where our resources and government money should be going. We're wasting time, money and killing the economy with this nonsense that we all social distance. Let's protect those who need it and let the rest of us get back to normal, our jobs, and our amusement parks. We don't all need this hedge of protection around us. @Sterlingguy you're absolutely right about Newsom. The guy has a hero complex, that will hopefully end up biting him in the butt.

April 23, 2020 at 6:46 PM

AngryDuck... you know that non-elderly people die from this, right? And that non-elderly family and caregivers can spread it to the elderly?

As a Californian, I am grateful for the informed leadership of my state and its detailed communication with and planning for its citizens... especially when I see the "crayon stick-figure"-level planning coming from many other states.

April 23, 2020 at 7:53 PM

To echo Robert. Yes, the Virus does tend to skew Older, and male, and interestingly non white (at least here in the UK). But that doesn’t mean a non senior woman from a white background is immune.

Boris Johnson is 55. He was in intensive care.

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/coronavirus-age-sex-demographics/

April 23, 2020 at 10:41 PM

Respectfully Robert, because I do enjoy your website, agree to disagree. Yes, young people do die of COVID just like any other disease, but the average age for COVID death is 80, with an average of 3 or more existing conditions. It makes more sense to me to give those people the care they need and protect those caring for them, than it does to cripple an economy and cause grief for countless others by pushing them into poverty. I'm sure there will be books written for decades by men much smarter than us analyzing the data trying to determine what worked and what was overkill.

April 24, 2020 at 12:25 AM

@Sterlingguy - You might want to be careful when you use statistics to support your argument. Here's why:

Sweden
10,100,00 population (2020 estimate)
16,755 confirmed cased of COVID-19
2,021 deaths related to COVID-19

Florida
21,500,000 population (2020 estimate)
29,648 confirmed cased of COVID-19
987 deaths related to COVID-19

Let's start with your claim that Sweden has herd immunity. That's not true. Even if there were 100 asymptomatic COVID-19 cases for every confirmed case, and that's an extrapolation far beyond the (possible) 40-50X multiple that the limited antibody tests are currently discovering, there would only be 1,675,500 people in Sweden who have had COVID-19. Herd immunity for COVID-19 is estimated to be at 70% of the population. For Sweden that would be 7,070,000 people. So, even with a hugely unrealistic multiple applied to the confirmed cases of COVID-19, Sweden is far from achieving herd immunity.

Then there's that very uncomfortable death statistic for Sweden. Florida has over twice the population of Sweden and yet has less than half of the deaths due to COVID-19. That doesn't make sense especially when you consider that the confirmed cases are approximately compatible. Is Sweden deliberately letting their people die in an effort to get to herd immunity as fast as possible instead of the gradual approach to herd immunity that you mentioned?

But the real point I'd like to make is that it's tough to trust just the statistics only when you make an assessment of the best way to deal with this situation. Different places like Florida and Sweden and New York have different demographics, different societal habits, and different cultures. To compare the COVID-19 statistics for these places without taking those factors in account and then saying one locale's approach to dealing with the epidemic is better than another locale's is not a smart thing to do. This is a complex situation with no easy answers.

April 24, 2020 at 5:33 AM

Let me assure you from being on the ground here in FloriDUH that this has been a partial lockdown at best. People have been going about their daily routines and it is shocking to see how many people are out and about. Want to be an essential business or employee? Just say you are and off you go!

April 24, 2020 at 8:24 AM

The thing about masks and temperature checks is...asymptomatic carriers. They tested like a whole village in Italy for clean (non C-19) blood. 50% was actually positive for COVID. These were people who sincerely thought they did not have it. Had not been sick.
If you took my temp while walking outside in Florida, I guarantee I will have a high temp. (I overheat quickly)
At this point, if you are not wearing a mask I assume you are either purposely trying to get sick or are trying to be a health menace. My "immersion" would be broken either way.
Not saying there is an easy answer here, but I plan on wearing my mask as an absolute minimum when we go next.

April 24, 2020 at 8:49 AM

First off: the passion everyone has for infection control is great. The immune suppressed, including elderly will like better hand hygiene and staying home if sick.

Second: I am a physician and preventive medicine specialist; and infection control-patient safety expert. We don't know exactly what works and never will "know". Even if we could ethically hold a controlled and blind experiment (required by FDA for new meds, devices), human behavior is not controllable in an experimental sense.

Third: with specialized rooms in hospitals, technically trained personnel with PPE, usually bedridden sick, can someone guess what the track record is for controlling infection? Not as good as we would want or hope.

Fourth: doctors get successfully sued all the time when they give 100% advice on how to avoid or treat disease. We have not, and are not, good enough. All sorts of obvious things turned out horrible (we used to give 6 weeks of bedrest for heart attacks and ulcers). You are well-meaning, but most medicine is adapted best-guesses at what to do, when, and how long...

Recipe:
1) Develop a broad collection of infection control strategies
2) Integrate wonder and benefit into those strategies (punishment is blunt, short-term)
3) Do usability testing to determine if they are doable and sustainable
4) Do usability testing to determine best design, unintended consequences

April 24, 2020 at 10:16 AM

Well, if you are reading and responding to this blog, there is probably a good chance that you are a real theme park aficionado and I get why you all are chomping at the bit to get parks reopened and things back to normal. My family and I have visited Disney parks well over thirty times over the years, so I get where you are coming from.

But, the majority of Americans (70%+ in the last poll I saw) do believe we should continue the preventive efforts most states are promoting. And as much as I love Disney, there is no way I am going to visit any park until we come up with a vaccine or at least some type of effective cure if I do happen to get it. I agree with Robert...the virus doesn't ask your age before it kills you (nor does it ask if you are a Republican or a Democrat). But even if it isn't life-threatening to you, who wants to be deathly sick for two weeks? Heck, I get a flu shot every year just to minimize the chances that I'll have to spend a week with my head hanging over a bucket and feeling like crap.

As for the preventive/protective measures being contemplated, that is not my idea of a Disney experience. Standing in lines to get tested, wearing masks all day long (can you see 20,000 crying little kids running around with an oversized mask flopping around their faces, protecting only their neck and left ear???), restricted rides and park hours, worrying about the person next to me hacking his lungs out and oblivious to the concept of covering his mouth, and listening to jerks moan about how they "paid all that money to get in here and I'm not going to wear any mask or follow these stupid rules". And if you are in a Disney hotel, how are you going to social distance on the bus going into the park? Just allow people to sit in every third or fourth seat? And no standing in the aisle hovering over other guests. Let's see, that sets a capacity of about a dozen people per bus. That would work out well.

Now let's talk about the money involved. Some of these suggestions, while apropos, would take so long to implement and be so expensive that the parks would have to weigh those costs against their projected, limited income. And the fixed costs Disney incurs just by opening their gates in the morning (full staff, utilities, insurance, etc.) is tremendous. I'm not sure it would even be worth it to them to open after doing a cost/income analysis. (And I don't even want to think about the mountain of lawsuits they'll incur from guests who do ultimately get sick.)

Finally, I am appalled by some of the comments that cast members should "of course" be required to wear masks, get tested daily, etc. to make the guests feel more comfortable and at-ease. Talk about self-centered! What about the employees? So you'll walk past maybe a thousand guests over the course of a day that you'll try your best to avoid. Employees in the Magic Kingdom alone will have 60,000+ potentially infected guests walking past them every single day, seven days a week. How about a little empathy folks?

I look forward to the day I can just relax and walk around the parks again. But I can wait.

April 24, 2020 at 10:32 AM

Wow... A lot of things to think about. Any of these changes will make visiting a Disney park a LOT less fun.

Limiting attendance? This will help, for those luck enough to get in. Who will they reject? People who are not staying at a resort? Or first come, first served basis? This could entice guests to get there early to stand in line (starting at 2 am?). Will that cause early lines outside the gates?

Less room to eat any meal? That sure will cut down on their sales. People won’t like this. Will people start carrying their meals around and eating it in the queues for the rides?

I agree that mandatory masks will be difficult to enforce, especially for children. If they screen guests for temperature, and possibly other factors, then the environment should be good. Masks should be optional.

I agree with GoofTroop! Except possibly the limiting of guests into the parks. That’s really going to cause problems.

Unrelated people? This is based on what the guests say... For the Millenium Falcon, you might just get 2 people per ride.

Some people can lower their temperatures by simply taking aspirin. Is that a reliable test? OK, better than nothing.

“jeremygary” mentioned the corruption of government... Florida depends on tourism. They aren’t collecting the taxes on the entertainment (admission), or the sales taxes... So Florida and the local businesses are losing a LOT of money. They have a good reason to want the system opened back up.

“Kknoble56" suggested not allowing people over 63. I don’t agree with that. But maybe that would reduce the number of electric wheel chairs... I have seen people actually using wheel chairs and then running to get in line.

I like the thought that people could get tested at their resort hotel, and once cleared, they could go to the parks. For those of us who live close to WDW, and have annual passes. We could get tested at one of many sites and be cleared to go to the parks.

April 24, 2020 at 10:50 AM

I tend to agree with the notion that traversing a theme park wearing full ppe gear while anxious about contact with others’ fluid contaminants is not the recreative experience I would seek.

I’m hopeful that vaccine will allow a new normal that bears a more than passing resemblance to the old one. That and I won’t be kicked to the curb for being 70.

April 24, 2020 at 10:56 AM

People also have to remember that Disneyland is much smaller than WDW. Everything is closer together.

If they keep the crowds down, will it still be feasible to open the park at all?

Gotta say, if they do keep the crowds down, it’d be like when I was little and admission was $5.

April 24, 2020 at 11:52 AM

First COVID death in San Jose, CA has recently been proven to be Feb. 6 (with no history of foreign travel) .https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/04/21/coronavirus-earliest-covid-19-deaths-in-bay-area-occurred-in-february-not-march/. On average, it takes 24 days from infection to death, so community spread has now been proven to be happening in the Bay Area in early- to mid-January (weeks before China shut down Wuhan's international airport - and MONTHS before stay-at-home orders were given.). Every person who visited a theme park in California in the year 2020 has been exposed to this virus. It's a serious virus, for sure, but it is NOT the killer it has been marketed as.
On the plus side, I think there's going to be a business opportunity here - maybe we'll soon see a theme park called the "Life IS Risk" Resort. People & employees will sign a disclaimer that they are aware of the inherent risks of entering and we can continue to enjoy a theme park experience like the life-affirming experience we are all used to.

April 24, 2020 at 12:27 PM

And here's an argument only theme park fans can appreciate: along with regular check-ins to Theme Park Insider, I have an only-slightly-embarrassing habit of daily check-ins with isitpacked.com, mostly to see the live feed of photos from Twitter & Instagram being posted by guests enjoying DLR and USH. What I saw, every day, without exception, was postings of guests from Korea, from Japan, and yes, from China, enjoying themselves at the parks. Every day. Group after group after group, from nation after nation. If anybody wants to convince themselves that employees of the California parks weren't exposed in large numbers to this virus already, well that's their choice, I guess.

April 24, 2020 at 1:28 PM

@Robert Niles, As an elected official I can share most people are unaware of the impact stay-at-home orders are having on the economy at the state and local levels, that will soon be announced when revenues (i.e. taxes) are distributed.

States are about to see a reduction in "shared revenue" of 70-80%, mainly from sales, and those states, including yours (CA) who have a high sales tax rate, will ask Washington for $$, which is unlikely to occur to the level they need to offset major reductions in services.

This is a game changer because every citizen in every state will be directly impacted and the disruptions being seen in some states are projected to increase substantially across the US. I am being told the result will be pressure for states to QUICKLY open up and to expect to see in our society what I posted earlier in this string because our new "normal" will be the same at Disney, Universal or Irvine, CA. The use of masks, social distancing and hand washing/disinfecting will be our new normal until national testing or a vaccine is available, which is months away.

April 24, 2020 at 2:47 PM

Great ideas in this article, but a few are left out. The Universal survey mentioned reducing park capacity, up to 25%. With a lot less people in the parks, infection risks are, naturally, greatly reduced. If you combine that with other measures, like temperature checks before admission, and 15 minute tests to see if someone tests positive for the virus, theme parks would be quite safe to visit (not 100% -- sorry, nothing is ever 100%).

Of course, admission prices would have to greatly increase, but the trade-off would be laughable wait times, even for headliner attractions. In 5 days at WDW, for example, you could ride at least as many attractions as a (carefully planned) ten day vacation when the parks were packed. And no need to fight the mobs to get on ROTR.

As for masks, honestly, I don't see it. In Florida's heat? Most people will have taken them off long before mid-day, no matter how many CMs remind them to do so. If parks or hotels pre-test guests for the virus, we really don't need masks, anyway.

P.S.: If you wash your hands after every ride, you've already minimized your risks a great deal.

April 24, 2020 at 3:08 PM

Those two Swedish studies with the outlandish results have already been retracted! One of them even had a basic math error, the other one was somewhow swaping samples in the labratory.

Sad to see they have already been taken as an excuse to suggest for life to go on as if there was nothing to see. That´s make believe thinking of the worst kind - and the authors of the studies or the people who pressured them to rush to pubblication must be under the same make believe thinking spell.

Another German researcher pushing that herd immunity narrative, with an albeit much less outlandish study (which thus doesnt really support his optimistic forcasts in the first place) has links to retail lobbyists....

Its madness, and one really doesnt need a statistics degree, or any college degreee for that matter to run some rough numbers to reveal that.

April 24, 2020 at 11:03 PM

Robert Niles--First please define what age you are speaking of? I can tell you that all the covid stats I have seen (I have consumed so much covid news daily, it's unreal how much time I am wasting but i'm off work.), that the death numbers go way down for under 70. And. And another big drop under 60 yrs. As to the elderly, the person giving the comment. And. A whole lot of people saying let's open the economy. Is that we do isolate the elderly. That presents the problem of being really careful with those places where we isolate them, but if we are targeting that problem we can ration the tests to test the caregivers for them almost every day. OR. They can be isolated alone with high quality tv and internet and books. or husband and wife. Actually, the gov you support might be coming around to this. Today. He unveiled a program to give the elderly free meals on wheels. So. they don't have to come out of the house at all. Other countries have implemented such programs for the elderly and made them more or less not a choice. Also. Remember gov newsome was originally going to make one huge exemption for disney famously saying in the middle of march that the shutdown order did not apply to disneyland because "they are their own nation state over there". Mr. Newsome uses the term nation state all too liberally. Especially, when he them asks for federal help for us all. As we want, but we are not any more a nation state than iowa is.

April 24, 2020 at 11:14 PM

Tim Hillman. come on man. You cannot take only 2 countries and make any conclusions at all. Assuming your scenario where you are counting florida as a country. first--florida did shut down. And it shut down (for all intents and purposes) much earlier than the media says it did. All of the major population centers in florida shut down fairly early. Sweeden did NOT shut down at all ever, except for stopping large gatherings. Yet. Sweeden still has done much better than the netherlands or belguim. who shut down. But. Worse than Ireland. Sweeden is kind of a mystery to the health experts.
There is scientific evidence that Florida is at less risk because it has already been 85 to 90 degrees most days with humidity by the middle of march. as is with the case with other families of flu viruses, different than corona but still from the same family).

April 24, 2020 at 11:16 PM

Jeremygary-- was I allowed to currently get a haircut or go to the movies in florida from March 15 to today in the major population centers. I don't think i was. Jacksonville is now allowing things. They don't have many cases there

April 24, 2020 at 11:27 PM

Ragster--You will note that the experts tell you that the normal flu vaccine is unpredictable how effective it is. they usually say 50 percent at best. that has been available for about 2 decades. So. if most of you want your risk to be close to zero, you may be waiting around 30 yrs (if you are lucky) to go to a theme park again. My bet is almost all of you will change your mind from what you are writing here. who wants to bet? I need to earn some money after Gov newsome has kept me out of work for so long and his unemployment dept still has not send out checks to a large majority of the applicants.

April 25, 2020 at 7:02 AM

davedisney - You might want to reread my post because:

1. I never called Florida a country. I referred to it as a place.

2. We agree. You cannot take two countries (or places) and make any (definitive) conclusions at all.

The statistics are just numbers but there's a story behind the numbers. Without considering the story, the numbers are largely meaningless. I think that was the point of my post.

April 25, 2020 at 12:28 PM

I wonder how would the parks handle potential limits over the number of guests allowed in the parks.
If I were the CEO I would look into splitting each day to two separate tickets - a morning visit (e.g. 8am-3pm) and an evening visit (3pm-10pm).
The smaller crowd would allow for little to no wait at all, making people get more out of their half days than they would for a full day at the park.
Each segment can have its own special entertainment event - a parade for the morning crowd, and a night-time show for the evening crowd.
People who would like to may be able to purchase a full day access for an extra charge of course.
They can replace all current multi-day tickets with a multi-half-day tickets, giving 3 half days for every 2 multi days they purchased (to not upset them completely).
I actually think a smaller crowd for half a day may be more satisfying than a full day with full crowds.

April 26, 2020 at 1:56 AM

Here's some stats for you as heard on KFI during a news break: in LA 98% of COVID deaths had preexisting conditions, and 43% of deaths were at nursing homes. We need to spend money and resources to protect the most vulnerable, not force everyone else into poverty. Let's open up the theme parks. As we saw this weekend, the public is not siding with the governor on this.

April 28, 2020 at 10:30 PM

@GoofTroop – masks absolutely need to be required in the parks. Yeah, I know they're not super comfortable and maybe it doesn't quite fit with Disney magic, but it's a small price to pay for a large reduction in the transmission of the virus. We're talking about human lives here! And no, I don't buy the argument "just stay home if you don't want to go." That's not an excuse for not having basic safety standards. That puts an unnecessary strain on doctors and nurses at the front line, and inevitably a lot of those people will just bring the virus back home to other people.

PS. Temperature checks only screen out people who are sick or showing symptoms, not people who are asymptomatic. That's where masks come in to play.

@AngryDuck What about the other 57% who died from the virus who weren't in nursing homes? Do those people not matter to you? Theme parks are a virus hot spot. They have to be handled extremely carefully or else there will be more uncontrolled outbreaks.

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