Walt Disney World Gets Green Light From Florida For July 11 Phased Reopening

Jill Goldsmith

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Walt Disney World has gotten the go-ahead from the state of Florida to open its four Orlando theme parks starting July 11 along the lines of plan executives presented to Orange County officials on Wednesday.

The phased reopening starts with the Magic Kingdom and Disney Animal Kingdom on Saturday, July 11 and Epcott and Disney Hollywood Studios on Wednesday, July 15.

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The plans were reportedly approved Friday by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation in a memo sent to Orange County officials, according to multiple news reports. Disney reps weren’t immediately available for comment.

Jim MacPhee, Senior Vice President of Operations, Walt Disney World Resort had unveiled the timeline at a virtual presentation to the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force two days ago. The parks widely-anticipated opening date is a milestone for Disney economically and symbolic barometer for the gradual reopening of the country still in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic. Orange County Mayor Jerry Dennings approved the plan shortly after the meeting but the state also needed to sign off.

Universal Orlando submitted its plans to the same task force last for a wide opening on June 5th. Marc Swanson, interim CEO of SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, proposed the Task Force that its Orlando parks open to the public June 11.

In Disney’s presentation, Jim MacPhee, Senior Vice President of Operations, Walt Disney World Resort, described plans for temperature checks of guests and staff, face masks and social distancing, frequent signage, numerous hand washing stations throughout the park and backstage and use of plexiglass barriers at retail and food and beverage locations. Capacity will be reduced at park attractions, restaurants, retail stores and transportation connecting the parks. Fireworks, character-meet and-greets, water displays and other events that might create crowds or make social distancing difficult will be temporarily suspended. The park will expand mobile ordering platforms at its restaurants. It will clean ‘high touch areas frequently. He said Disney’s strategy will focus around three keywords — “education, communication and engagement.”

All the nation’s parks were shuttered in mid-March amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Walt Disney World has also opened its retail and dining area, Disney Springs, to the public last week.

Shanghai Disneyland reopened May 11. It was the first Disney Park to shut down, on Jan. 25, following China’s nationwide orders to close public spaces and isolate people at home. Measures included temperature screenings and expanded social-distancing limiting the capacity of ride cars to single riders or riders within the same group or family. A reservation system also helped to stagger guests’ arrivals at the park, which limited its normal capacity 30% or about 80,000 guests. The idea has been to gradually increase that as conditions allow.

 

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