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After One Year of the Pandemic, Signs of Hope?

March 11, 2021, 8:02 PM · The U.S. federal government is directing states to make Covid vaccines available to all adults by May 1, President Biden said tonight in a nationally televised speech. In addition, the federal government will speed production and distribution of vaccines, supported by the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that the President signed today.

The idea is allow more Americans to celebrate the Fourth of July with their loved ones - a safe, new openness that could help revive an ailing theme park industry that continues to struggle to attract visitors while Covid infections and deaths continue from coast to coast.

One year ago today, the NBA suspended its season - the first in a cascade of actions that resulted in the almost complete shut down of the American economy. This weekend marks one year since the world’s theme parks closed their gates - including Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and Disneyland, sending the industry into its current malaise.

California’s theme parks are set to reopen next month, with many top seasonal parks joining them in May. Florida’s theme parks have been running at reduced capacity since last summer, but a large percentage of American theme park fans - estimated between one fourth and a third - have said that they will not consider a park visit this year. The earlier that people can get vaccinated, the sooner that many of them will be willing to book vacations again.

Stimulus checks and a huge tax break for families can help make it possible for people to pay for their vacation dreams in the months to come, too.

President Biden said the nation will have enough shots for all U.S. adults by the end of May. He also said that the federal government will launch a central website to help Americans find and make appointments to get vaccinated.

Emotional whirlwind
2020-2021: The Ride

But restoring America’s physical health is just one important step toward recovery. We have yet to see the full effect of this pandemic upon our collective mental health. For many, mental trauma appears only after a physical shock concludes. Each of us will confront that in our own way, but President Biden said, “it's a shared experience that binds us together as a nation. We are bound together by the loss and the pain in the days that have gone by. We're also bound together by the hope and the possibilities the days in front of us.”

For more than two decades, I have published Theme Park Insider not just to keep people informed about and engaged with theme park attractions, but to offer anyone who needs it a few moments of hope - a thought that there are always fun destinations waiting out there for you. Places that you can think about, dream about, and even plan to go visit.

When America collectively realized the threat of this pandemic one year ago this week, for the first time I could not offer that hope through these pages. For the first time, no major theme parks were open anywhere that you could go visit.

So I pivoted and tried to offer the hope of future visits. I started a social distancing kitchen video show where I made theme park recipes. I published virtual roadtrips with plenty of on-ride videos. And I tried to keep everyone informed about potential reopenings and what people would have to do to stay safe when parks did return.

But as the pandemic dragged on, many people began to lose their hope. Some of us lost loved ones and continue to feel that pain. The stress of the pandemic helped expose many other problems and divisions within society. Many fans decided to just check out and stop dreaming about a future vacation that just seemed too risky, too inappropriate or too far in an uncertain future.

For everyone who has stuck with me for the past 12 months, thank you. Your support means more to me than even a professional writer could aspire to express. For those checking in after a break, welcome back. I hope that you will keep reading as we look together for signs of new hope in a recovering world. And for those discovering this site for the first time, I promise you honest reporting and thoughtful commentary whenever you visit.

It’s been a helluva year. Here’s hoping that President Biden’s plan works, and we all can celebrate our independence from this pandemic this summer.

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Replies (13)

March 11, 2021 at 8:56 PM

I have to say, Robert, during that first lockdown, you (and everybody else who commented and chatted here) provided a much needed respite from the ‘real world’, and thank you all for that! A lot of us had theme park holidays planned for last year, only to see them either cancelled or rescheduled. Personally, I’ve had my Orlando holiday rescheduled twice now. I’m cautiously optimistic that 2022 will be third time lucky! This site and this community is something to be proud of. Long may it continue!!

March 11, 2021 at 10:14 PM

My mom had to axe her planned trip last year but hoping to get her grandkids to WDW later. Again, this is great news (and shows that had rollout been handled better at the start, we'd all be better now) but good to have light at the end of this long dark tunnel.

March 12, 2021 at 8:21 AM

This is all awesome stuff, so enjoyable to hear signs of progress from the top, thus trickling down to the rest of the population. I've been a reader of this site for many many years, and I must say some of the articles posted here in the past year made it difficult to return on a daily basis. Obviously your political views fueled your articles, and it was unpleasant to read. People come to your site for theme park news and as you mentioned a place to "get away", but that was not the case many days. But whatever, hopefully that is in the past. Now, let's all high five each other for the sunny Disney days ahead : )

March 12, 2021 at 8:52 AM

We're probably not getting on an airplane in 2021, but even before last night's proclamation, we were almost certainly going to take at least one big theme park road trip this summer. However, I'm still skeptical that the US will be any closer to "normal" than it is now. Things may be more open, and people are getting out of their homes because of cabin fever, but the risk infection (whether COVID or some other virus) will NEVER go away. Vaccines provide hope that most people can be protected against some of these hazards, but I worry about public officials placing the needs of the few ahead of the needs of the many in distributing the primary weapon against the threat of COVID. Here in the DMV, the conversation about vaccine distribution is unending with officials constantly hemming and hawing about who is eligible and who is actually receiving vaccines. More time and resources are being spent on debating the ethics of distribution than the physical capacity to put shots in arms, all the while the Federal Government has hoarded enough vaccine to inoculate the adult population of the country 4 times over with very little of those resources distributed to poorer, less-capable nations. So while officials in this country are bending over backwards to make sure poor and underrepresented Americans get vaccinated ahead of even "essential" workers, the US is diverting a majority of the vaccines production chain to domestic reserves so they can sit on ice while talking heads debate who is "worthy" of being protected against a deadly virus.

Sorry, call me cynical, but I'll believe President Biden's July 4th promise when I see it (and feel the needle in my arm).

March 12, 2021 at 10:20 AM

Russell: "Sorry, call me cynical, but I'll believe President Biden's July 4th promise when I see it (and feel the needle in my arm).

Me: Okay, you're cynical. Also check your email.

80sman: "I have to say, Robert, during that first lockdown, you (and everybody else who commented and chatted here) provided a much needed respite from the ‘real world’, and thank you all for that!"

Me: Well said, sir!

March 12, 2021 at 10:28 AM

Thank you very much for everything, Robert. I loved ALL of the articles and this continues to be my favorite website.

Keep up the great work!

March 12, 2021 at 10:32 AM

Great Post, Robert, and agreed, thank you for shining your light during this crazy year. You have helped keep hope alive.

What an amazing time, to have a government actually governing again!

March 12, 2021 at 10:57 AM

I am looking forward to getting back to normal in all aspects of life, including on this website where 12 months ago the most heated political debate on here was whether Disney or Universal had better parks.

March 12, 2021 at 11:14 AM

And join the chorus, Robert, know the last year has been a nightmare in various ways but you've bene handling it and helping us keep sane even amid some....let's be charitable and say "spirited" discussions. But this site has been a great way to release some tension and remind us more what brings us together than rives us apart.

March 12, 2021 at 2:44 PM

Robert, I have followed Theme Park Insider since well before this all started. I know some chastised you for saying it wasn't the right time to reopen the parks (when it was clearly NOT the right time to gather in large groups). But I also loved the articles when you spelled out the safety contingents in place when parks DID reopen in Florida, and mentioned how well they have been working.

I'm grateful that Disneyland will probably (but not definitely yet) reopen next month, and sad that I won't be able to visit (I live in a part of Nevada that is closer to Disneyland than some California residents, and the less-severe restrictions here had a lot of Californians visiting us, but since I'm in a different state, I'm not eligible though some who live farther away ARE eligible to visit Disneyland when they reopen). And that may sound bitter, but it's not -- I want to wait and see. I've seen the success of Walt Disney World under the circumstances, and the protocols have worked well. But Disneyland could be in for a different ride, even with the same protections in effect.

But overall, I'm grateful for the information. I miss the HECK out of Disneyland. And more importantly than whether I can visit, I'll be glad to see cast members back at work (I'm a former cast member, and for anyone who lives in that area, they know how expensive it is to live there when you're not getting a regular paycheck, even with a federally-subsidized unemployment check). I have no doubt that the Disneyland Resort permanently lost some valuable cast members. And I'm not blaming Disney. Every company in the nation was faced with tough choices over the last year, and Disney was no exception.

March 12, 2021 at 3:03 PM

I welcome any hopeful signs, but can theme parks thrive without international visitors? When will the borders reopen? I'm in Canada and I can only hope to be able to visit...maybe in Fall 2022?

March 12, 2021 at 7:13 PM

There are a zillion theme park newsfo efforts across the web. And every one of them look like rank amateurs compared to TPI. First, because they are less committed to providing thoughtful copy that lends a gentler hand to personal opinion as does R. Niles. Second because they've been hacking away for twenty weeks (or days) and not 20+ years.

Third because they are more interested in pimping an alleged "scoop" than they are in building a community.

Fourth because most of them have banned me from commenting.

Go TPI. Best in the bidness!

March 13, 2021 at 10:18 AM

From TH Creative:
"There are a zillion theme park newsfo efforts across the web. And every one of them look like rank amateurs compared to TPI. First, because they are less committed to providing thoughtful copy that lends a gentler hand to personal opinion as does R. Niles. Second because they've been hacking away for twenty weeks (or days) and not 20+ years.

Third because they are more interested in pimping an alleged "scoop" than they are in building a community.

Fourth because most of them have banned me from commenting.

Go TPI. Best in the bidness!"

A big +1 to that! (Apart from the being banned part! :) )

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