Park of the Week: Islands of Adventure

Is Disney World the Safest Place in Florida Now?

July 18, 2020, 4:36 PM · We've heard from several fans who have visited the Walt Disney World Resort since its theme parks started reopening to the public last week. The consensus seems to be that Disney, in general, is doing well in enforcing its new health and safety procedures in response to the ongoing pandemic.

In fact, some visitors have told us that they believe that Disney World feels like the safest place to visit in Florida right now. Whether that's an endorsement of Disney or an example of "damning with faint praise," given how badly much of the rest of the state has been handling the virus... well, we will leave that decision to you.

Mickey and Minnie
Mickey and Minnie ride through World Showcase to greet fans.

Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios were the latest to open, on Wednesday. A reader just emailed us several photos from Epcot, giving those of us outside Florida more of a sense for what the parks look like at the moment.

Epcot entrance

Let's give Disney credit for being one of the few organizations to define what it means by "facemask." Don't try to pass off a flimsy mesh scarf as a face covering at Disney. Bandanas don't count, either. Disney has mandated that all guests must wear solid cloth face coverings that hook or tie around the ears or head.

Disney also is using clear vinyl curtains to separate rows on some rides, including the Living with the Land boats.

Living with the Land boats

And there are physical distancing markers in queues and preshow areas, such as here in the lobby of the France theater.

In the lobby of the France theater

Disney also is enforcing its rules on eating and drinking the way that we had hoped when we wrote about the reopening this week. Guests may remove their masks to consume food and beverages, but they must remain stationary and at least six feet from other parties when doing do. There's no "sip and stroll" loophole to the mask rules, at least not at Disney. That's important as Epcot is hosting another one of its food festivals now, and eating and drinking while walking around the park long has been part of those events.

The safest place to eat, according to research, is physically distanced from others outside. But if you need a break from the Central Florida summer sun, heat and humidity, you can find abundant physically distant seating inside the World Showplace, between the Canada and United Kingdom pavilions.

Inside the World Showplace

The prices for the food at the "Taste of Epcot International Food & Wine Festival" look like they haven't changed from last year's fall event.

Hops & Barley menu

Readers had wondered if Disney would adjust the pricing, since the resort is not currently offering its Disney Dining Plan. Many guests have used snack credits on the plan to buy Epcot's food festival items, and without those available, people wondered if Disney would be able to get away with its old list prices.

Maybe it can. Maybe it can't. But it looks like Disney is going to try.

Replies (33)

July 18, 2020 at 5:01 PM

I wonder if Universal will feel pressure to adjust their "sip and stroll" loophole. HHN is creeping up fast, and if they expect to sell a lot of alcohol at the event, that will pose a problem.

July 18, 2020 at 9:31 PM

What intrigues me about the headline is the presence of the word "now". Because as time passes, Disney is going to get better at this.

July 18, 2020 at 11:28 PM

But will the rest of the state?

July 19, 2020 at 6:55 AM

Nah! All things considered, we are just not that bright.

July 19, 2020 at 10:11 AM

Strikes me as an irresponsible article title, Robert. We all know that the safest place in Florida is staying inside your home. We also know, without a doubt, that attending a social event, no matter how distanced, raises your chances of getting the virus. Hanging out with people indoors, say on indoor rides, is absolutely not safe. The picture you feature of that older man sitting inside without a mask on is exactly how NOT to do it.

So no, it's absolutely, 100% definitely NOT the safest place in Florida. That you would even imply otherwise is not a good look.

July 19, 2020 at 10:38 AM

Lets be blunt. This article is about people travelling. This is a blog about travel and theme parks. So advertising its the safest place for people who likely dont have homes in florida is totally accurate.

July 19, 2020 at 10:45 AM

The Corn-Nellie writes: "Strikes me as an irresponsible article title, Robert."

I Respond: Did you actually read title? "Is Disney World the Safest Place in Florida Now?" It doesn't contend Disney is the safest place in Florida. It asks if it is the safest place? One can comment and answer "yes" or "no". Do you put any thought into your posts before you hit the "reply" button?

July 19, 2020 at 11:12 AM

@sejha "So advertising its the safest place for people who likely dont have homes in florida is totally accurate."

That's demonstrably false. You could travel to a beach house in Florida, stay with only your family, not mingle socially, and it would be exponentially safer than mixing in public, particularly indoors, as Disneyworld invites you to do.

Your sort of misinformation, like the title of the article, is not a joke. Underinformed people could believe what you are saying is true and base their decisions on it, leading to their deaths. You can't yell "fire" in a theater, and you can't lie and say it's safe to attend a massive social gathering in the middle of the deadliest epidemic the world has seen in a century. Indeed, the Texas medical association recently ranked everyday activities on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of covid risk, and "attending an amusement park" ranked an 8, among the riskiest of activities.

So no, it is not safe or low risk to attend Disneyworld, and implying otherwise is potentially lethally irresponsible.

July 19, 2020 at 12:26 PM

The Kel'Nel: "Your sort of misinformation, like the title of the article, is not a joke."

Me: No. But your claim that this blog has an "irresponsible article title" certainly is a joke.


July 19, 2020 at 12:34 PM

A little personal anecdote. I'm a doctor in Melbourne, Australia where we are currently pariahs since we're dealing with a second spike and most of the rest of our country has essentially eliminated local spread of COVID. We have reentered lockdown due to the increase of cases to 200-400 daily in a city of 5 million, they are now mandating face masks from this Wednesday.

I attended a call in ICU on Friday night where a 71 year old lady required intubation (a breathing tube) due respiratory failure from her Coronavirus. She caught this from her granddaughter, who was completely without symptoms when she saw her grandmother. This lady now has an approximately 1 in 5 chance of survival, and her family have to deal with that fact.

Traveling to Florida, where they have 12,500 new cases daily (with a population roughly 4 times that of Melbourne) is irresponsible, no matter how safe Disney makes their parks.

Coronavirus is real, the way to avoid catching it is to avoid unnecessary exposure completely and using appropriate methods to keep yourself when potential exposure is necessary, such as when shopping for essentials or working. Appropriate methods include social distancing, wearing face masks and hand sanitisaton.

Don't put yourself in a position where you're the ones speaking it to others, even if you think your immune to COVID.

Keep safe.

July 19, 2020 at 12:56 PM

Thanks Grant. Here in America reality is in short supply, so I appreciate your truth.

July 19, 2020 at 2:40 PM

INCREDIBLE. Colonel Guy completely misrepresents the headline on the blog and just decides to ignore the fact that he was wrong.

Very weak sauce.

July 19, 2020 at 3:30 PM

Grant, not to be picky or argumentative, but I like to have the complete picture when I get information. I assume the granddaughter tested positive for Covid? How old was she? There has been debate on the asymptomatic transmission, so since you were personally present, I'd like to have as much info as you can share.

July 19, 2020 at 3:35 PM

I get this was meant to be more a comment on how bad Florida is with cases and Disney using more safety guidelines than other spots. Just annoying others jump to wrong idea of Robert serious about "oh, sure, it's much better to go to a theme park than just stay inside" and such. At least Disney is trying as a business and might be able to improve it down the road.

July 19, 2020 at 3:48 PM

I live in Florida. We are a true mess. We have 47 hospitals with 100% full ICUs. I think our governor has taken the approach that if you just open the economy, then the economy will recover and boom. Now businesses are learning this is a flawed idea. Tourist have not returned in any meaningful numbers in Orlando or most of the state. Numerous restaurants, stores and businesses have had to close back down because they have too many sick workers. Until the virus is under control the economy will continue to struggle to rebound.
Most people are not willing to get sick or die for a vacation.

If you are going to visit the parks here this is my experience.

- SeaWorld and Busch Gardens are a big NO. Poor implementation and enforcement of safety measures. Think Six Flags experience.

- Universal has done a much better job but needs to require real masks and needs to stop people walking around with drinks and food.

- Disney is doing a good job, but Disney Hollywood Studios has real issues because crowd size and lines just are not working to create a safer environment.

- Fun Spot and Legoland. Good luck you might as well attend a Covid 19 party.

July 19, 2020 at 5:11 PM

Illinois is cited as a place that did it right. Our governor shut down bars before St. Patricks Day and shelter orders on March 21st. He kept it up despite huge push (folks downstate going "just shelter Chicago, we're fine") and mask mandates in May. Finally reopening outdoor dining on May 29th and indoor in late June with masks and doors/windows open.

Yes, still worries on cases and such but given our large populace, the fact we have a much lower per capita of cases is still impressive. It was harsh short-term pain but better than the mess now happening. Had other states done the same, we might have movie theaters etc open rather than worried on more lockdown.

July 19, 2020 at 5:13 PM

thecolonel needs to hide in his basement for the next ten years...

oh, and stop writing crap on message boards.

July 19, 2020 at 7:12 PM

Theme Parks are not safe in Florida right now. Period. Stop. There is no grey area here, no argument, debate, or responsible levels of protection or precaution to be implemented.

Florida needs to go into FULL LOCK DOWN RIGHT NOW!!!!

Anything else is negligent. And every death in the name of the economy is murder for money.

Too dramatic?

Then would somebody, please, explain to me what is the acceptable level of death vs economic benefit for the citizens of the state of Florida and the USA? Because that appears to be the game being played: A certain amount of people dying is okay, as long as the tourist industry keeps rolling along.

Is it 50 people a day? 75? 100? 150? Because ALL OF THOSE have been surpassed in the past week - per day in the state of Florida.

Is 200 corpses being piled into ice cream trucks in a single day enough to disappoint tourists wanting to take pictures with Mickey Mouse, or see an anamatronic Kylo Ren?

Is it 300 people a day?

500 people a day?

What is the number of people needlessly dying EVERY DAY that has to be reached before somebody takes some leadership role in Florida and closes the place down?

July 19, 2020 at 5:17 PM

Disfan I'll be honest I don't know how old they were, I didn't look into it. I do know they had tested positive. I'm not trying to suggest they were young, they may well have been an adult. As far as asymptomatic transmission, it's definitely possible although most transmission occurs from symptomatic people.

Of the 11,800 cases in Australia since the start of COVID, only about 1100 have been under 20 years old (400 under 10). So it is feasible they were a child. We do know that children are less likely to catch COVID and get sick from it, but they can still spread it.

July 20, 2020 at 5:29 AM

Honestly... We have entered Sweden territory in terms of containing the virus. Most news organizations are reporting Sweden as the "cautionary tale" in terms of containment. While their death rate is high (compared to population) and the toll it's taken on the elderly is bad... I have to wonder if the long term returns are worth it? At some point as a people we have to start facing a very harsh reality. We can blast out all the cries we want about death rates and losing people but when do we start to think about a more somber reality?

Two things Sweden did not sacrifice is economy but more importantly, mental health. Below is a great article addressing the latter which I fully believe is relevant in this discussion.

At the end of the day the elderly will die no matter what and the planet is over-populated as it is. No one wants to say this out loud and I will be destroyed for suggesting it. Regardless, when do we decide those that can live with the virus get to live and those that can't don't? This position is uncomfortable but relevant. Whether you'd like to admit it to yourself or not.

July 20, 2020 at 6:25 AM

Around 7% of known corona cases in the US so far ended with the death of the infected person. There are arround 300k current confirmed infections in Florida. Daily infections are always above 10k. This is not about avoiding 150 daily death anymore. A much larger death toll is already a sad certainity.

July 20, 2020 at 9:01 AM

In Florida, we have a LOT of businesses that are reopening. Are they safe? Is it really safe to open your mail, or get packages? Everything we do has a degree of risk, and we should all be as careful as we can. But living a life doesn't stop. Disney is doing everything they can to protect everyone (cast members as well as Guests. I haven't been back to Disney yet, but I will go soon. I think Robert's question is a good one. I also think the answer is obviously, No, it's not the safest place, but neither is any store, or any restaurant, or even the post office. But we all need some activity. Thanks Robert for your article and the question. I think Disney is as safe as it can be.

July 20, 2020 at 9:39 AM

The real reason for shutting down the economy was to avoid having the health care system collapse. If that can be avoided, society simply cannot repeatedly shut down the economy, with the accompanying devastating results on society as a whole. Those who are truly vulnerable to the virus should be the ones who quarantine themselves.

In my Canadian province of Quebec, masks are now mandatory in all interior public places. I don't see why U.S jurisdictions can't do the same, although I know that, in some places, there is a hostile backlash against the mask.

July 20, 2020 at 10:22 AM

Anyone who advocates another shut down in Florida has to be willing to acknowledge that doing so will destroy segments of the economy that will never come back.

And after they acknowledge that circumstance they should demonstrate how thoroughly they've evaluated the situation by identifying those parts of the economy that they believe will be permanently closed.

July 20, 2020 at 11:20 AM

@AndrewL -- I'll go out on a limb and agree with you. I've wondered since this whole thing started if it isn't partly Mother Nature pressing the reset button on the Earth's population... I also agree about the possible long-term impacts on mental health -- I think we'll be seeing fall-out from this in the form of suicides, domestic violence, etc. etc. for several years to come... especially if more of the country is forced into another round of shut downs.

I also agree with TH that another shut down in Florida could be catastrophic to a lot of our economy. As much as I don't like to agree with DeSantis on most things, I understand why he took his slower, more measured approach to a shut down. He was trying to minimize the effect on major aspects of Florida's economy... it may not have worked, but that's what he was trying to do, and with good reason. Trust me -- folks in Florida fully realize that our tourism is the reason we don't have a state income tax.

July 20, 2020 at 11:43 AM

@Still a fan: Somehow, while folks are fine with seatbelts, taking shoes off for airplane, etc, wearing a mask in some quarters of the U.S. became "infringing my freedom" and such. There have been lawsuits against governors to reopen churches, major events etc, the majority of which were tossed by courts yet somehow some claim shelter orders are "unconstitutional" (ignoring they are in fact in several state constitutions). Now it's become a weird point of pride as loons are convinced Fauci works "for the deep state and this is all about control."

I know, it's insane but sadly, much of America is populated by complete idiots.

July 20, 2020 at 11:46 AM

@Melanie Howe: DeSantis can spin the "helping economy" line but the rise in cases shows how foolish his idea was. You think Illinois' governor Pritzker wanted to shut down his state for two solid months, which includes Chicago? He wanted the massive economic downturn that would bring? No but he did it, held strong and so when shelter orders were lifted, places could reopen with mask mandates and such and some semblance of a decent economy still. Now, many concerns over a new spike but in other nations, it's shown the short-term pain of an economic crunch is better than the long-term disaster requiring further closings and such. Several good pieces at other sites noting how the economy would have been much better off with a nationwide shutdown in March than the mess things are now.

July 20, 2020 at 12:08 PM

@MikeW... and I pretty much agree with you. IF we'd had a concerted, nationwide effort back in March, that very well MIGHT have made a major difference. But we didn't, due both to lack of leadership at the top and, ya gotta admit, lots of conflicting info at the time 'cause there was so much about the virus that we just didn't KNOW... and still don't. So now we're pretty much screwed ...

And to address your comment to Still a fan about how masks shouldn't be considered worse than seat belts or shoe removal in airports... Yeah, that's a point, but here's the thing about masks that bugs me -- and it's got NOTHING to do with personal freedoms or any sort of far-right agenda... In my opinion, masks severely inhibit our ability to communicate. Being able to see a person's full face and smile (or lack thereof) is SO important. Masks put up a barrier to communication, which is doubly bad now in a time where folks spend half their time with their faces stuck to their phones as it is... Personally, I'm not very good at small talk and tend to respond to basic politeness with a smile vs. something verbal. But now, when the staffer at Publix hands me my cart and I just smile at them, I come off as rude, even though my brain isn't programmed to snap out with "Thanks" that fast. I also find the image of everyone walking around in masks to be quite creepy and dystopian. I wear a mask now when I have to, but it's taken the joy out of everything... I have no desire right now to go browse a bookstore or gift shop... or, honestly, go to a theme park. If there was a guarantee it would be for a limited time, I could deal with it better. But every time I see folks suggesting that masks should become as common as seat belts or "no shoes, no shirt, no service", it scares the hell out of me. Anyway, just the perspective of someone who's NOT taking a political stance on the mask thing...

July 20, 2020 at 12:32 PM

Im currently at Universal and feel more safe here than the supermarket back home. Job well done here!

July 20, 2020 at 3:02 PM

Melanie Howe, I don't like the mask either, but it's not something permanent. If everyone wore them, we would end this pandemic, and then there would be a "post-Covid" future.

July 20, 2020 at 5:10 PM

I don't have the desire to read every reply which I am sure includes a few hysterical notes from certain members.

To answer the question, my family and I feel safe attending the parks and it has been a very good getaway for one of my mentally ill family members who has been deeply struggling with the lockdown.

July 21, 2020 at 5:19 AM

From WDWNT (07/20/20): “In an Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update press conference led by Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and Orange County Health Officer Dr. Raul Pino, new information has come to light regarding COVID-19 outbreaks and cases related to the theme parks.

“During a Q&A session, a question came in from the Associated Press for Dr. Raul Pino regarding reports of cases coming from the parks:
Mike Schneider via Associated Press: ‘Now that all Disney theme parks are opened, have there been any reports of virus spread either coming from workers or visitors? Can you provide the same status update for Universal and SeaWorld?’

"To which Dr. Pino responded: ‘Outbreaks, no. We have had isolated individuals that have become positive. Now, remember, we rely on the data that is provided by individuals. So, it is self-reported. So someone could lie to us about where they were, where they live, or what the situation may be. So having that in consideration, we haven’t seen any large amounts or numbers of positive cases coming with tags that identify them to any of the parks.’

"While individual cases have been reported, there is no direct correlation to the theme parks at this time, nor have any outbreaks been recorded by health officials. At this time, Orange County will continue monitoring the status of positivity rates to determine how best to move forward with phased reopenings."

July 21, 2020 at 5:47 PM

Just got back from Magic Kingdom - absolutely felt safe as it could be and it was well organized. Masks are enforced and lines are well marked and enforced. Ride vehicles are sparsely populated in addition to hundreds if not thousands of hand sanitizers at the entrance and exits of everything. I saw most people using the hand sanitizers. The only not so good practice is that ride vehicles are not sanitized between use thus it is imperative you sanitize your hands after every ride. The virus knows no boundaries - it will circulate everywhere and to anyone. Those areas that shutdown will see it come back until herd immunity is achieved. Your state, county, city boundaries etc is meaningless. In the meantime, know your own risks and take precautions. Don’t count on others to do anything to protect you as they have already proven they won’t.

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