Phased Reopening Plans Pave Way for Eventual Return of Walt Disney World, Disneyland Resort at Discretion of State Government

Jessica Figueroa

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Phased Reopening Plans Pave Way for Eventual Return of Walt Disney World, Disneyland Resort at Discretion of State Government

The nation is slowly recovering, thankfully, in the near-wake of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as statistics begin to taper off and government officials look to reopen the nation’s businesses, including Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort.

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A child hoisted up on his parent’s shoulder as a dense crowd looks on at the “Happily Ever After” fireworks spectacular in the Magic Kingdom the night before the park closed indefinitely.

Today, President Trump unveiled new guidelines to help states reopen their businesses in phases through the easing of social distancing restrictions. The guidelines still put a heavy emphasis on continuing stringent hygiene practices like hand washing and using face masks in public. Employers should still enact social distancing, temperature checks, testing and sanitation practices in their workplaces. Large venues, including some restaurants, can operate under strict social distancing protocols. Bars, however, must remain shuttered for now.

The guidelines target May 1 as the day to begin the process of reopening the country. Ultimately, these guidelines aren’t mandatory and decisions on when and how to open will fall upon each individual state.

Across Walt Disney World, essential workers are already using face masks while carrying out necessary maintenance throughout the parks. It’s unknown whether guests will be encouraged to wear them as well upon reopening. With regards to temperature checks, Bob Iger recently commented in an interview with Barron’s that temperature checks were just one example of methods they might implement to help guests feel safer and more at ease. As far as social distancing goes, Walt Disney World may well be considered a “large venue” (or rather, a collection of large venues), and while certain areas of the parks may be allowed to open, other areas, such as bars or amphitheaters (such as the viewing location of Fantasmic! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios) may not reopen for some time.

The reopening plan is set up in three phases, with May 1 being the first date states can choose to move forward with Phase 1. This would require two weeks of a sustained drop in confirmed COVID-19 cases.

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Phase One for specific types of employers.

Under Phase One, it seems unlikely that Walt Disney World would open unless it chooses to do so in phases, with a select limited number of parks, restaurants, and attractions open in order to operate under the required strict physical distancing protocols.

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Phase Two protocol for employers.

Moving to Phase Two would require another two weeks of a sustained drop in confirmed COVID-19 cases.

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Phase Two protocol for specific types of employers.

It isn’t until the state enters Phase Two that we’d imagine the parks could truly reopen, with Non-Essential Travel now resuming at this time, as well as moderate social distancing. Under Phase Two, bars can reopen as well, albeit under diminished standing-room occupancy only. Phase Three would be considered a “return to normal”.

The current federal guidelines on social distancing are not expected to be renewed when they expire on April 30. Officials said the White House would work closely with states to ensure reopening efforts are done safely and only when local outbreaks are deemed contained.

You can read the full “Opening Up America Again” Guidelines in PDF form here. 

We’ll continue to update this post as further information is announcced during the ongoing White House press conference.

Source: CNN

91 thoughts on “Phased Reopening Plans Pave Way for Eventual Return of Walt Disney World, Disneyland Resort at Discretion of State Government”

  1. The CDC guidelines against large gatherings will remain in place long after “Phase was 1,” so if anyone thinks Disney is opening before August they are sorely mistaken. The company will wait to see how this plays out, as many health experts expect this to be a disaster as states will reopen without adequate testing.

    • We cancelled our trip for June 24th last week, assuming it wouldn’t be back by then, but even if it was we don’t want to spend that kind of money to be wearing masks and worrying about what we can and can’t touch. If it is open this summer it’ll most likely be smaller crowds of Florida locals. We’re going to wait till next year, which is the WDW 50th, something we wanted to see anyway. If I were the Walt Disney Company I’d be focused on the 50th in WDW, and look at this year as “a loss” at this point

      • I hear you on that! My family and I have been planning to visit in January 2021, but we live in CT and my husband is a doctor at the hospital. So, seeing the numbers and knowing what we know, we don’t even know if we will go then. I feel like mass gatherings can’t be a thing until the vaccine is made. I’m wondering if people will have to show a paper showing they received it before traveling/entering large parks. Of course, people would claim discrimination, so that probably won’t happen.

    • I do not think Disney should reopen may 1 how can there be fases Disney has long lines and Disney is crowded this can not happen until the carona virus is gone, you can not do this in faces it will not work, as far as schools go that to schools should be closed for the rest of the year, kids are crowded in the Halls going from class to class I think by August things should be back to normal just my opinion, may 1 is to soon to reopen things we still have the virus and people will get sick and kids and the numbers will go up, also reopening without adequate testing is not good ether

    • Justin, I totally agree. Yes, I want the parks to open, however in the real world, Disney will be there, and if we all move to fast, more can die and then you would not be visiting the Happiest Place on Earth. Let’s be smart

    • Justin Is correct. Anybody is incredibly misinformed if they think anything in Mass Gathering fashion is going to happen before the end of summer. not only that, but Disney has absolutely no say and when they will open their Gates Again. Basically right now they are citing that if we contain this virus right now, we still will not be approved for Mass Gathering until the end of 2020. I don’t think people understand that we don’t contain this and go right back to normal. I don’t think people understand that normal no longer exists. I don’t think people understand the devastation this is causing.

    • August was my best guess too after reading these guidelines. Most of the country still hasn’t peaked and won’t for another 2-4 weeks. Then you need 2 weeks before you can start with phase 1, another 2 weeks until phase 2, and another 2 weeks until phase 3. So you’re talking at least 10 weeks best case scenario. But it won’t be best case scenario. It’s going to be a mess. So maybe you’ll see Disney Springs and some hotels open in July, maybe a soft opening in late August, but nothing back to normal until at least late this year, probably not until there’s a vaccine or treatment sometime next year.

    • Absurd to open anything where social gatherings would start this all over again. Living in the Keys where people of all nationalities arrive for a weekend or up to 3 week vacation. I say keep all shut down til there are NO MORE CASES

      • They’ll be out of business by then. This isn’t going away for years, if ever.

        Disney will be open in some way probably at some point in June.

        And why shouldn’t they, if someone is scared or don’t want to take the risk then don’t go. Easy as that.

        As a society we simply have to move past this. we lose over 3,000 people a day in car accidents and yet no one is calling for highways to be shut down or cars to be limited to 45 mph.

        Life has risks, disease will always be around, be smart, take the risks you want to take and don’t limit others who aren’t as worried about this particular situation from living their lives.

        • Car accidents aren’t contagious and don’t happen all within a few-week period across the country simultaneously (overwhelming ICUs) or require medical staff to wear protective gear (that isn’t available) when trying to save someone or require tests (that aren’t available) to see if they’ve actually been in a car crash in order to know how to treat them. Car crashes don’t put every person who comes into contact with the victim at great personal risk.

          And as most carriers have *no* symptoms yet can make vulnerable or immunocompromised people seriously ill or die, car crashes vs COVID is not even remotely an apples to apples comparison. I’d encourage you to act and think in a way that helps those risking their lives and working tirelessly and selflessly on the frontlines.

        • So if i understand if you want to go somewhere where you could easily catch covid with or without symptoms. Then come home and give it to your mother or child who were scared and decided not to go. No we shouldn’t close highways since 3000 people lose their lives, but those folks aren’t causing others go out and have accidents at 10 times the rate. Yes be smart, take risk you are comfortable with, but not ones that effect others lives. Easy as that

    • I agree! They aren’t going to reopen straight away and they are right not to do so.
      I think this is too soon, the death rate/sick rate has not decreased and priorities are just not in order….. Especially in the state of Florida. We were one of last states to shut down. Testing is inadequate. Unemployment is a bust. People aren’t listening and staying at home.

    • It’s going to be VERY interesting to witnesses what they do for sure. Disney is in a very interesting position…when to open? Do they stay safe and stay closed and LOSE more than a $$$ gazillion waiting until August? Or do they open sooner using creative ways? Can the company take on this sort of lose? Will they even want to? My guess and my own personal opinion is….they will open before August. I have been around Disney a lot over last 25 years and they love to create magic and make money.

    • I agree. The health professionals in my town predict that we’ll see a second wave of cases, and reopening everything too soon is exactly what will cause a second peak. I don’t think Disney will open until everyone else does first.

      • Lol this made me laugh. Natural selection is about to run it’s course. I live in northern jersey and we are at peaking and it’s just scary. We have many testing locations and people are still turned away bc they don’t have symptoms. Whole families have it. Our nursing homes have people dying everyday. And then you see people in Florida waking on a beach like this is some big conspiracy theory.

        • I will tell you that life in Florida is very different from New York right now. You’re talking about two very different scenarios. One place has a rampant number of cases, and outside of Miami, things are very quiet here.

        • Because for them it is. NY and NJ are the cause of most of Florida’s cases, so stay home! I’m very sorry for what you are going through, it must be devastating. But you cannot and should not project your experience on the rest of the country.

  2. Understood about Cast Members / workers wearing masks please ask about guests wearing masks on Disney property?

    • Mask won’t help if you touch your face. Which I see people do all day at Disney both auuls and children. So why even wear them if you are going to be rubbing your dry eyes forgetfuly?

  3. I hate to burst anyone’s bubble but there has been conflicting info to this. A top health official from FL was saying it may not happen until a vaccine is out. I don’t dare type here the answer that was given for fear people will be unhappy with the messenger but I want them to reopen asap like everyone else!!!

    • I also feel places of mass gatherings won’t open until after a vaccine is available. It’d be reckless and irresponsible otherwise…. And that’s coming from someone who holds shares in Disney (me). Lives are more important than money, despite what others have tried to claim.

  4. Reopening now would be catastrophic. We would only be reinfecting everyone dumb enough to venture out. Until we have everyone tested and vaccinated we are stuck at home. Unless we pursue full PPE suits for every American, which will limit comfort and capability.

    Aside from that just look at the economic factors. Disney cast furloughs aren’t even fully in effect yet, and all international staff are gone. The soonest they may begin new international programs is August. It will take time to train those cast members, so at best, if the virus disappeared tomorrow, which it won’t, the earliest they could reopen would be mid August. With 22 million Americans unemployed people are not going to be spending what little money they have on theme parks.

    • What about the cast members and their families ? They could be exposed to the virus by the visitors, including guests from other countries. Don’t forget the employees are people.

  5. It’s up to the States, not the White House, to decide when and how to open. And due to a lack of testing, the pandemic will continue in America for quite some time. WDW won’t open before August.

    • Testing you today won’t do any good if you go out and get the virus tomorrow. So there you have it .we all need to say in. Only ones out should be the necessary people. WDW won’t open till they know it is safe! They do care about the cast members and the guesy8.

      • The flu kills tens of thousands in the US ever year. (Not saying this virus is the same as the flu)

        Should Disney choose every flu season? It would surely save lives.

        • You’re right in saying the virus is not the same as the flu. Covid has way more casualties than the flu and the flu also has a vaccine for it every year. Way more preventable, less dangerous. Comparing them is stupid.

          • From the CDC Conclusion
            CDC estimates that influenza was associated with more than 35.5 million illnesses, more than 16.5 million medical visits, 490,600 hospitalizations, and 34,200 deaths during the 2018–2019 influenza season. This burden was similar to estimated burden during the 2012–2013 influenza season1.) flu shot does not always work. it is a hit and miss. just saying.

  6. I think we watched a different press conference. Phase 3, our new normal until a vaccine is developed, mentioned gatherings of 50 people not 10s of thousands. Sadly I don’t think Disney parks even falls under phase 3.

    • A gathering would be an arena full of people. Walt Disney World is twice the size of Manhattan. If malls are reopening, so are theme parks in some capacity.

  7. There is no COVID-19 vaccine. There is no cure. There is no definitive treatment. There is no widespread testing. The nation is exactly where it was before the lockdown except the U.S. now has nearly 700,000 cases & 35,000 deaths from this coronavirus. It is no safer to be out & about than it was 30 days ago. There will most likely be a deadlier second wave and possibly a third wave. We do not have a handle on this pandemic. I love Disney, but visiting during a pandemic that the federal government is handling so poorly seems incredibly dangerous. I would rather stay healthy and live to visit Disney another day.

    • Just how do U figure the government is handling this pandemic terribly ?!!!! I assume YOU could do a much better job. Just what do you suggest. Einstein ? If you can’t wrestle the gator stay out of the swamp. These types of idiotic Comments just lights my fire WOW

      • 1. We should’ve closed our borders down and stopped travel sooner. And that includes borders between states.
        2. Patchwork planning didn’t help. Some states do this, some states do that. We need everybody on the same page. The federal government should’ve acted sooner.
        3. A lot of people in power were spreading misinformation despite the fact they have access to boards of medical professionals which further caused confusion and frustration among the American citizens. They should’ve kept their mouths shut and let the scientists talk.

        There you go, 3 suggestions (although I am not Einstein).

    • Oh yes they are the mayor of Florida wants Bob to sit down with him and go over the reopening plans.

  8. Disney and other tourist destinations should be the very last to open. Because how do we stop someone going stir crazy locked down in a hot spot coming to these destinations?

  9. I don’t see how anyone would take the liability and financial risk of opening any major collaboration event before either real and accurate testing is widely available or a real vaccine is widely available

  10. I am confused about temperatures being taken, most every guest will be experiencing high body temp, do to being 87-98 degrees daily (hotter during the summer months) in sunny south Florida. Just saying this because those guests wont beable to enter the park??

    • I’d imagine there would be a higher temp threshold to look for (over 100 degrees) since 98.6 is only the average. If a person is running a fever from the heat alone they need medical help anyway (heat exhaustion or heat stroke). I’d be more concerned about the asymptomatic people who can infect others without realizing they are carrying the virus.

          • I don’t see the parks being crowded. If they limit the number of people going in each day then it’s possible to put markers on the ground for waiting in line. The auditoriums would have to seat people every 4 seats or so. I think the almighty dollar is going to win out.

      • They also limit the number of people allowed in our supermarkets, with employees monitoring that customers are staying one cart away from each other. Regulations are so tight here in Australia that governments closed businesses that were not adhering to the rules.

  11. I hope WDW opens up as soon as possible! Be an optimistic example for the world, who will be watching what Disney does. Reflect Walt’s optimism! Encourage people to wash hands, etc; but left people make the free choice whether to go or not go, and give your employees the chance to go back to work,too! (Without forcing anyone). Thank you!!

    • Honey this is not happening and it scares me that you even want it to. Listen why would we go through what we have been going through for 6 weeks to just go to Disney and get people even sicker. Please be careful who you say these things to especially children who may take off handed comments for granted. We need to be so careful like Justin and others have said and stay home and safe.

      • I heard the beaches are open in Florida and everyone was out having fun. Disney World will be open soon.

    • Making uniformed choices that defy reason, science, and respect for our communities does not equal optimism, and Walt would never do that.

      • If you want to go to Disney World… it’s Disney Worlds choice not yours. Lol. That’s the point of all this.

  12. Not sure if you saw the report out of Boston where they tested 397 people who stayed at the Pine Street Inn Homeless Shelter. 146 of those people tested positive. But the shocking realization was that ALL of the 146 positives were asymptomatic. This story highlights the need for universal testing.
    I don’t think Disney will want to discriminate and tell immuno-compromised or any populations that may be more susceptible to COVID-19 to not visit. (You’d be amazed at how many opinions I’ve seen on message boards, saying “they should just open it up for the people who are willing to take the risk…”)
    So I think until we have universal testing, or proof of antibodies, or whatever else the scientific community deems appropriate, things are gonna be a little different for a while.
    Would it make sense for Disney to open to a lot less people? How would those operating costs – to run the rides, to staff the restaurants, security, etc. Are they still operating at a loss if they greatly reduce the amount of entrants into the park?
    Right now everything is up in the air.
    I do think that Disney Springs could start to open though, when things start to open, with appropriate social distancing.. Mainly for the Disney locals who need their Disney fix.

  13. I’ll plan to make my next trip early next year – probably February.

    I’m not certain when WDW opens (neither does anyone else), but I’m not interested in being there until we’ve all got confidence in everyone’s safety and well-being. It just isn’t worth it to me to be there until that time.

    If they open sooner rather than later, well, I’m a patient guy. I like being there that time of year.

  14. I’m hearing more and more that this virus has been going around for much longer than we think. When the antibody test comes out it’s going to be eye-opening how many of us have already had it.

    Disney parks will be open at some point in the summer, likely full operation by the end of the year at the latest.

    At some point as a society we have to just accept the risk and move on. Social distancing was not the complete cause of this pandemic not being as bad as they predicted. It wasn’t as bad as they predicted because it’s not as dangerous as they said it was. That is a fact that they are now coming to realize, just look at the latest data.

  15. Jax just opened up its beaches and parks. You’ll see them probably open up in phases in June somehow. Once Hospitals have good grasp on this with space and treatment is when things will open up. Can’t wait on a vaccine. There may never be one. I don’t like whos in charge of this country right now and i believe we’re stuck in this situation because of it. Stinks having to lye in a bed, whom someone else made, but we have to. Now this thing is not a Hoax like some channels say it is, nor is it a death sentence like others do. Is it deadlier than the flu…. sure is, but life has always been “proceed at your own risk.” We need to proceed but with caution.

  16. I agree in principle with most comments in this thread, but theme parks can’t stay closed until the vaccine is developed and survive. Maybe Disney can, with its other services. I believe the parks will open sometime between July 1 and August 31, when the numbers have decreased to a point where our health care system can handle the cases.

    I’m not even against a “check your temperature” protocol to decrease the number of potential carriers in the parks.

    I had planned a trip for mid November, and if the parks are open I’m going to follow through. My biggest concern is that a vaccine isn’t developed by fall and there’s another round of mandatory closures.

  17. Nothing will be “normal” until they get a vaccine. It only takes 1 “super spreader” to destroy a possible reopening. Imagine a Disney resort with an outbreak, or Disney Springs on a Saturday night. It will only take 1 infected person. Florida still had 1000+ new cases every day for the past 2 weeks. Testing is supposedly increasing this week. Orange County drive thru testing could only do 250 tests a day, and you had to be over 65 with symptoms. That only changed last week to if you had symptoms you could get a test. We’re still early in the game here, not sure what the rush is. Listen I want to go back to Disney too, but this has got to be done right or we’re going to end up back at square one. Or we totally change our emotional attachment to loved ones dying or even strangers dying, just so we can feel a sense of a new normal, because that’s what I’m understanding from the pushback from some. Accepting death and sickness, so we can get a dole whip. I don’t know.

      • There’s around 1200+ cases in Orange County right now, but you have to take into account the 1-4 corridor where many cast members and AP holders live. The I-4 corridor coast to coast has 5,329+ cases. I live in Osceola, 6 minutes to Disney. I have family in NJ and what they’re going through is a nightmare. We are better here, and it’s tempting to drop your guard. We drove threw Disney on Saturday, saw the castle from the road, and a hundred buses in the MK parking lot. It was sad but hopeful at the same time. There’s a ton of rumors right now, worse case is Disney maybe closed for the year. Logistically, with furloughs, and loss of students, plus adapting the parks and resorts to a virus free zone seems like a colossal feat. If done wrong, it could be a disaster. Just imagine, are we talking… waivers from responsibility, a tracking system using the magic band, blood tests, temperature checks, Parks at 25% capacity, having to do this with every single cast member from resorts and parks every single day. Like I said earlier…
        I just don’t know. Hoping for the best though. We need a vaccine.
        By the way…Thanks Tom and your crew for staying on top of things!

        • It’s 1100 postive cases since the start in Orange County, not active currently. We’re not talking about opening tomorrow or May 1st here, if anything some pieces would open late May/June if things continue on the current trajectory. That’s still over a month away, if not 6-8 weeks. I think the world is very different by then.

          Thanks for the kind words.

    • Maxene may not be available for 18 months or ever. Do you suggest we continue to hide out for that time?

    • They are not going to force vaccines on people. Besides that even if a vaccine is developed they need lots of time for human trials and long term effects. I for one will not be getting any vaccine that doesn’t have long term studies. I have seen way too much of that over the years. Just look at the drug commercials on tv and then a few months later the people have bad side effects. You inject yourself I am not and they are not going to force people.

  18. I don’t understand why people think that Disney won’t open until August at the earliest. It is completely possible for Disney to open by June 1 as long as they put different safety precautions in place such as virtual queing so guests don’t have to stand in lines and limiting park capacity. I have had a Disney vacation planned since last year just like a lot of folks have and have looked so forward to it. I love Disney so much and trust that they will make sure that whenever they do decide to reopen it will be safe for guests and their cast members. Gotta believe in that Disney Magic! :)

  19. Disney already has 5 hour window for its Disney after hours . They can do this in every park. Limited amounts of guests for 5 hour intervals starting in the morning

  20. For those saying let’s just wait for a vaccine, know this:

    1. There are many viruses for which scientists have worked very hard to obtain a vaccine, with no positive results. Prior versions of coronavirus included.

    2. For example, there is no vaccine for HIV, rhinoviruses, other forms of coronaviruses, etc. and unlikely in the future.

    3. It’s possible, and even quite probable, that there won’t be a vaccine for this for at least 18 months, IF EVER!

    At some point, and this will probably be in the very near future, we will have to manage life with this virus WITHOUT A VACCINE, , and learn how to go forward as a society. Including how to function in a positive way, including leisure time activities which are essential for mental health.

    We will just need to manage the risk of living with this vaccine for at least the next couple of years, or longer.

    Life is inherently risky, we just have one to manage that risk just as we will need to learn to manage this risk. We cannot shutter ourselves for the next three, six or 18 months.

    We need to accept personal responsibility and risk management as we move forward. But we cannot let this economy circle the drain for much longer. Or society will fall apart. That will be much worse than any coronavirus.

  21. Perhaps group parties together and plan an agenda for each party to keep the distance between other parties. Sort of like the Fast pass. So parties that traveled together stay together and have their days/ experiences planned therefore they have a schedule to maintain and confirmation that overcrowding won’t occur. I think opening to Florida residents first is an amazing idea. Also perhaps install sanitizers that aerosol the rides and atmosphere on a set timer maybe every 30 minutes vs having to have the team members do this just have a large sanitizer process. Also having assigned spots for parties to stand while we wait in line that maintain 6 ft distance.
    But safety remains priority so this would only work as time passes and vaccinations are available/ and people comply with regulations.

    • Grace: if you want be a sheeple and get a vaccine, fine don’t impose that on others that have strong immune systems and don’t need or want that crap.

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