cast member previews, Walt Disney World's two most-visited theme parks welcomed back annual passholders today for the first of two days of AP previews.After a couple of days of
Magic Kingdom and Disney's Animal Kingdom reopen to the public Saturday, followed by Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios next week, on July 15. Disney's launched a PR blitz in advance of the parks' return, trying to educate the public on all the new health and safety procedures at the parks.
But plans for reduced capacity to promote safe physical distancing, temperature checks to bar entry to obviously ill people, required face masks, more frequent cleaning of surfaces, the addition of hand sanitizer stations throughout the parks, installation of Plexiglass barriers, and the promotion of mobile ordering, mobile check-ins and contactless payments have not kept countless Disney fans and other observers from insisting that it's not safe for Walt Disney World to be reopening. Not when Florida leads the nation in per-capita new cases of Covid-19.
The critics are 100 percent correct to note that Florida is a dangerous environment for infections right now. But that's exactly why Disney is implementing all these new procedures. If it was as safe to go out in Central Florida as it was six months ago, all that Plexiglass and the new Disney Park Pass advance reservation system would not be necessary.
Disney itself is telling people that there's a risk in returning. On its website, Walt Disney World notes, "An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present."
So why is Disney reopening, then?
Because, unless Disney is planning to get out of the theme park business and potentially throw millions of people out of work as a result, it will have to reopen sometime. And if the state of Florida is permitting the resort to reopen, now is as good a time as any to start that process.
Can't Disney wait until it's safer? Sure, it could - but, please, tell me exactly when that will be?
What happens if there is no vaccine?
What happens if there is, but it's less than, say, 50 percent effective, and millions of Americans continue to be infected?
What happens if the vaccine works, but it's priced at $1,000 a dose, and a majority of Americans either can't afford or refuse to get it?
What happens if the vaccines works and it's affordable, but it takes years to get enough doses to distribute it to a critical mass of Americans?
All of these hypotheticals are real possibilities at this moment. And they might be more real than the possibility of discovering and deploying a vaccine to achieve herd immunity within even the next 12 months. So Disney, and other theme parks, need to figure out a way to operate in this environment, at least until we get some hope that we might one day move into another, more inherently safe one.
That's what is happening at the Walt Disney World Resort this week. This is Disney's shot to show the world what the theme park industry can do to operate as safely as possible in the current environment. But will the combination of new safety procedures and shorter-than-ever waits, due to capacity controls, be enough to attract a profitable audience once again?
Disney can control only what happens on its own property. All that Plexiglass and physical distancing won't bring the parks back to profitability if people are getting sick - or even just fearing that - on the plane or on the road to Disney. Disney's reopening won't help anyone - including Disney - if it draws people out of their homes, only to get sick at some point during their trip... and the those guests spread that sickness back in their home communities.
If you want someone to blame for this awful reality, don't blame Disney for trying its best to operate in this environment. Blame instead the administration in Washington and its media allies for turning masks into a culture war issue and providing zero leadership on containing this virus, making America one of the worst-performing nations in the world for controlling Covid-19. Blame the state of Florida for dragging its feet on stay-at-home orders, testing, contact tracing, unemployment compensation, mask requirements and pretty much every other opportunity it had to manage this outbreak in the state.
In an ideal world, theme parks would not be open during an active pandemic because elected leaders would have done everything in their power to contain and curtail that pandemic before it became the world's new way of life. They didn't. And now Disney is left to do what it can to try to salvage some value from its theme park business, and to provide the people who are willing to visit some measure of comfort in this horrible moment in time.
If you are legally allowed, whether you choose to visit right now is - as always - up to you. But don't blame Disney for trying its best to welcome you back.Tweet
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