Disney’s plans for a post-COVID-19 world

Castle lit up at night time in Disney’s Magic Kingdom Theme Park. (Photo courtesy of Natalie Quade)

After COVID-19 forced Walt Disney World in Orlando to close all of its theme parks and resorts, the company is slowly starting the recovery process by reopening shops and restaurants in Disney Springs.

This phased reopening began on May 20 as Disney welcomed back some cast members, also known as the Disney College Program interns who work at the resort, some operating employees and of course, the guests.

With returning guests still at risk for being exposed to COVID-19, Disney Springs announced on its website the protocols it will be taking to ensure the safety of guests and six key things to know before stepping into the resort again. 

These protocols include reduced parking and fewer entrances, screening the temperatures of guests before entering, requiring face masks for guests age two and up, incorporating barriers to help maintain physical distancing and modified operating hours to comply with Orange County’s curfew. Performances and related entertainment will also be banned, areas that are high-touch or interactive will be closed off and hand sanitizer and handwashing stations will be added in key areas.

This reopening has left many with mixed feelings about Disney and whether they are planning on going back anytime soon. On July 11, the Magic Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom are set to reopen, followed by Epcot and Disney Hollywood Studios on July 15.

A MoveOn.org petition posted by theme park workers urging Orange County to reconsider allowing the July 11 reopening of Disney World has garnered more than 17,000 signatures. The reopening plan was approved in May.

After initially planning to reopen on July 17, Disneyland recently decided to remain closed and reopen at a later date, pending state and local government approvals.

While some fans feel excited about the situation, others are worried about the risk of catching COVID-19. Nelsa and Nelson Olayon, a married couple who have been Disney fans for years, said they do not plan on visiting Disney anytime soon since they are often around Nelsa’s parents and they do not want to put them or themselves in danger.

“As much as I love Disney, I think they are being a bit irresponsible by opening up their parks so early,” Nelsa said. “I think the cases for the virus will definitely skyrocket since there are way too many people at the resort together, even with reduced capacities.”

Nelson agreed and is also a bit skeptical about going to visit Disney for the time being.

“I think safety is our number one priority,” he said. “If there is no reason to visit the parks right now I think it is best to wait it off until cases go down, and that is what we are planning on doing.”

While some Disney fans like the Olayons are staying away for now, Christine Doimeadios, who visited the parks often, said she is impressed with the way Disney is handling the transition.

“I think Disney is doing a good job with their protocols and the whole situation could not have been handled more perfectly,” she said. “I know that many people might be upset about their decision but now it is up to us to comply with these rules and remain clean if we want to keep on visiting Disney in the future.”

On the official DisneyBlog, Thomas Smith, editorial content director for Disney Parks, tried to reassure visitors.

We’re being deliberate during these phased reopenings, and we’re encouraged by how our guests are responding at Shanghai Disney Resort and Disney Springs,” Smith stated. “We’re doing our part, and we need our guests to do their part, too, as we work together to focus on safety.” 

Vivian Desme is a Florida International University student majoring in Broadcast Journalism and minoring in E-Marketing Analytics. She enjoys exploring new places in order to gain knowledge from the world’s different cultures, history, and stories.