Welcome to Disney's Wonderful World of Plexiglass!
The theme parks of the Walt Disney World Resort reopened to their first guests today, with a cast member preview at Magic Kingdom and Disney's Animal Kingdom. Disney employees flooded social media with photos of changes at the parks, most notably showing a lot of Plexiglass barriers in queues and on ride vehicles.
Plexiglass in the last half of the queue and on the Safari trucks pic.twitter.com/W8QsN42lrC— Alex (@Imagineer2017) July 7, 2020
The plastic shields are just part of the multi-tiered approach that Disney is taking to help stop the spread of the virus as it prepares to reopen its parks to the public this week. Several Disney executives talked about those steps in a livestream for reporters this afternoon.
"We know that some people aren't ready to return," Walt Disney World Senior Vice President for Operations Jim MacPhee said. "Based on the demand we've seen since we reopened our reservation systems a couple of weeks ago, we understand that many people are - this is truly about guest choice. We're carefully monitoring the evolving situation, obviously considering all guidelines that we get from internal and external resources - such as the CDC and other health authorities and experts - and learning from the openings of the parks around the world and even right here at Disney Springs. We're going to continue to evaluate our approach and adapt based on these inputs."
Disney's theme parks in Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Tokyo have reopened to the public, while Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris are set to open in the next week. California's Disneyland remains closed indefinitely, as California has not yet issued guidance on reopening theme parks in the state. But Disney officials said that the aggressive steps that the company has taken with its Florida parks will provide a baseline for new operations in Anaheim, once those parks are cleared to return.
We've described before the steps that Disney is taking with its theme parks - temperature checks for cast and guests, reduced capacity to promote safe physical distancing, enhanced cleaning and use of hand sanitizer throughout the resort, expanded use of the official Disney app for mobile ordering and check-ins... and the mandatory use of face coverings for everyone.
For those who continue to insist that they do not need to wear masks when in public, Disney Parks Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pamela Hymel outlined some of the recent science that proves the effectiveness of masks in helping to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
"A recent study was published by Florida Atlantic University that emphasized how crucial different kinds of face coverings are in preventing the spread of COVID-19," Dr. Hymel said. [Link added - Ed.] "It showcased how all kinds of face coverings offered some form of protection. With a cloth mask, it reduces the spread of droplets from anywhere from six-to-eight feet to just a few inches in front of the face.
"There's an increasing amount of research studies that validate how important face coverings are," she continued. "So as we look at face coverings we know that they should fit tightly around the nose and mouth, and also be secured with ties or with straps, and really be secure across the sides of the face and be made of breathable material. And again, we will be requiring this when visitors come to our parks."
Want to see for yourself? Here's a video that I found from FAU illustrating the study that Dr. Hymel referenced:
The Disney executives emphasized the importance of guests working together with Disney's cast to help keep everyone safe when at the parks. Remember, service is not servitude. Theme park guests can help make, or break, Disney's reopening depending upon how well they abide by the new rules.
Of course, Disney is going to need the help of a lot more than just their guests to make the parks' reopening both a financial and public safety success. It's not just Disney that has to convince people that they'll be safe when coming to the parks. It's the airlines or businesses along the road to Orlando that have to reassure the public, too, if people are going to feel safe enough again to make the trip to Disney.
But as the executives suggested, today's reopening is just the first step in what promises to be a long process of learning to live with Covid. Many questions remain. While Plexiglass barriers should help limit the spread of airborne droplets, how will they affect airflow needed to disperse aerosolized particles? How well will guests abide by social distancing rules when the inevitable afternoon thunderstorms send everyone running for cover?
Will what Disney is doing in Florida provide an operational model that might help other businesses to reopen more safely? Or will even they not be enough to convince Americans to come out and travel again?
As always, stay tuned. Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom are opened to annual passholders with advance reservations on Thursday and Friday, reopening to the public on Saturday. Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios return on July 15. Advance reservations are required for all parks.Tweet
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