Disney World’s reopening: Where things stand as Florida Covid-19 cases spike

Coronavirus

Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando remains on track for a phased reopening on July 11 even as Florida faces a spike of reported Covid-19 cases recently.

When Disney announced its phased reopening back in late May, Florida and other Sun Belt states hadn’t yet registered the spikes in Covid-19 being reported now.

CNN Travel takes a quick look at where things stand on Tuesday afternoon.

Florida cases rapidly on the rise

Florida is one of numerous Sun Belt states seeing a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases over the past 14 days. You can see updates for Florida and the rest of the United States with CNN’s Covid-19 tracker by clicking here.

As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, the Florida Department of Health reported a total of 213,794 cases since January. It reports that 7,361 of those cases have been confirmed since July 5.

Only New York and California have reported more cases than Florida. However, when measured by number of cases per 100,000 people, Florida ranked No. 15 in the United States on Tuesday.

In Orange County, where the Disney parks are located, 14,768 Covid-19 cases have been reported.

What Florida’s governor says

Gov. Ron DeSantis, who quickly approved Disney’s reopening plans back in late May, remains solidly behind the Disney World reopening.

At a news conference on Monday, he praised the safety plans Disney has lined up, according to the Orlando Sentinel newspaper.

He said that Universal Orlando, which reopened on June 5, “is doing a great job” and that he believes attending a Florida theme park would be safer than going to a large private gathering.

Medial opinion

CNN Travel interviewed Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases specialist at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, in late May before the recent rise of cases in Florida.

He cautioned then that people in high-risk groups — the elderly and people with underlying health conditions — should give serious consideration about going in.

He said in the end it’s a risk vs. reward calculation.

You need to ask yourself this: “Is the benefit worth the risk? And there will be a variety of answers to that” depending on your unique situation.

On Tuesday, Disney posted a health update from its chief medical officer, Dr. Pamela Hymel, on virus safety efforts.

“From increased cleaning and disinfecting across our parks and resorts, to updated health and safety policies, we have reimagined the Disney experience so we can all enjoy the magic responsibly,” the blog said.

“We implemented our health and safety measures after considering the guidance of government and local health authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in addition to the U.S. Travel Association and Disney’s team of health experts.”

Measures include limits on the number of people who can enter, temperature checks at the gate and face coverings for people 2 and older.

The blog did not mention the spike in Florida’s Covid-19 cases.

Schedule for Disney World parks

The current schedule is for the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom Park to open on Saturday, July 11. EPCOT and Hollywood Studios are still set to open on Wednesday, July 15.

Gone are the days you can decide to go and just show up ready to buy a ticket. Even passholders are finding limits.

Disney World is reopening with only limited park reservations available for people with annual passes or tickets that were purchased before the pandemic. No new tickets are being sold for 2020 right now.

For those wanting tickets farther down the road, Disney’s official site says guests must follow four steps using its new Disney Park Pass System:

1. Get a valid park admission linked to a Disney account you’ve set up online.
2. Register the members of your party.
3. Select a date and a park to attend.
4. Finally, review and confirm your reservations.

Julie Tremaine, a freelance travel writer, says Disney World’s size and complexity make reopening a particular challenge.

Tremaine booked a vacation package at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge the morning the park announced its reopening. Because she had both park tickets and a hotel reservation, she was able to book opening day reservations for July 11 at the Magic Kingdom.

“Walt Disney World’s reopening has definitely been bumpier than some of the other theme parks, but considering I called the reservation line about 40 times last week before I got through, that isn’t stopping anyone from trying to get there for July 11, no matter how complicated it is,” she said.

“I feel like I’m going to be relearning the entire Disney protocol when I go,” Tremaine said. “There are so many modified experiences, so many restaurants and resorts still closed, so many new ways of doing things, so many changes just to being at the park itself.”

Bottom line to get into a Disney World park during the pandemic: Be patient, be flexible, be persistent, be ready for rules to change.

Disneyland

Out in California, it’s a different story for the original park, Disneyland. It had set a phased reopening date on July 17, one week after Disney World in Florida.

But on June 24, Disneyland announced it was postponing the reopening amid a more cautious approach in California on the coronavirus, a significant rise in cases by late Jane and pushback from union members,

There’s been no new date set for Disneyland’s reopening.

Disney’s Asia properties

Disney has several resorts in Asia, where the use of face masks has been widely accepted.

With the reopening of Tokyo Disney Resort on July 1, all of Disney’s Asia holdings are back in business. Shanghai Disneyland was the world’s first Disney park to reopen on May 11. Hong Kong Disneyland opened a month later on June 18.

All the parks are operating with safety measures seen in many US parks: Advance ticket booking, mandatory temperature checks, face mask requirements and social distancing in lines and on attractions.

Other Orlando parks

Back in Florida, other theme parks have already reopened their gates to the public, including Universal Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando and Gatorland, a smaller park that reopened back in May.

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