During this difficult time, we know that many of our readers want to be kept up to date on news that may speak to the Disney Parks closures. This is why you’ll see this type of content on our blog. But if you only come to our site from social media, this may be all you see. The majority of our content continues to focus on Disney vacations, restaurants, attractions, and, of course, food. Please head to our latest posts here to see what we’re writing about today!
The Disney parks aren’t the only places closed for business due to the global health crisis. Much of the country is currently contending with closures and economic pause on an unprecedented scale.
Many around the nation are turning to health and government officials for guidance, and today the Federal has issued its “Guidelines: Opening Up America Again,” a phased approach to drawing back current recommended restrictions.
We’ve identified some specific points in the guidelines that may give more insight into what would need to happen before the Disney Parks can safely resume operations. Let’s take a look.
Responsibility Falls To the States
Possibly the most important point coming out of the Federal Guidelines is that the guidelines themselves are “implementable on a statewide or county-by-county basis at governors’ discretion.”
Throughout this crisis, Disney has made closure decisions with guidance from state and local health and political officials…and, it seems, will likely continue to do so.
This means that the reopenings of Disney World and Disneyland — from dates to procedures to health screening approaches — could look very different based on the state crisis profile and the cautionary approach taken by state officials.
For example, California’s Governor Gavin Newsom has noted that mass gatherings likely won’t be happening in the state for several months. When asked for specifics, he stated “When you suggest June, July, August, it is unlikely.” And Florida’s Surgeon General would prefer to wait for a vaccine before allowing mass gatherings.
Phase 1 Allows Restaurants And Other Large Venues To Operate, But Bars Should Remain Closed
To enter Phase 1 of the new Federal Guidelines, states have to fulfill “gating criteria,” including sustained reductions in symptoms and cases as well as the ability for hospitals to treat all patients without crisis care. But once states enter Phase 1 of “Opening Up American Again,” things look very different than they do now.
In Phase 1, maximizing physical distance from others is still important, but “Large Venues (e.g. sit-down dining, movie theaters, sporting venues, places of worship) can operate under strict physical distancing protocols.”
However, the Guidelines also state for Phase 1 that “All individuals, when in public (e.g. parks, outdoor recreation areas, shopping areas), should maximize physical distance from others. Social settings of more than 10 people, where appropriate distancing may not be practical, should be avoided unless precautionary measures are observed.” And they clarify that people should “Avoid socializing in groups of 10 or more people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing (e.g. receptions, trade shows).”
If California and Florida generally follow these guidelines and enter into Phase 1, that means we could see the Disney Parks slowly reopen with an approach similar to what we currently see in Shanghai Disneyland.
The Parks themselves opening may not suit the guidelines in Phase 1 (due to the difficulty of ensuring physical distancing in so many circumstances), but opening shops and restaurants — and possibly even movie theaters — could be conceivable. So we may see Disney Springs and Downtown Disney reopening before we see the parks open their gates.
Employer Guidelines Suggest Temperature Checks and Screening in All Phases
Currently, Shanghai Disneyland is requiring temperature checks from guests, and Bob Iger has discussed potentially doing so in the domestic parks.
But the Federal Guidelines for employers, as essential employees begin to return to work, recommend social distancing and protective equipment, temperature checks, testing employees and isolating those who are ill, sanitation, disinfection of common and high-traffic areas, and best practices for business travel — for ALL PHASES.
This means that even when states are in Phase 3 of the “opening” plan — which includes states meeting the “gating criteria” three successive times with no rebounds — the recommendation for employers seems to be continuing temperature checks.
If guidelines are followed, Cast Members and potentially guests would quickly experience a new normal — including various potential health screenings — when Disney World and Disneyland reopen.
Phase 2 Addresses 50-Person Social Gatherings and Fewer Limitations on Large Venue Operation
To enter Phase 2 of the Federal 3-Phase plan, states or local areas will need to achieve the “gating criteria” (including sustained reductions in symptoms and cases as well as the ability for hospitals to treat all patients without crisis care) two times and see no evidence of a rebound in cases, at which point recommendations for social settings change significantly.
In Phase 2, “Social settings of more than 50 people, where appropriate distancing may not be practical, should be avoided unless precautionary measures are observed,” “Large Venues…can operate under moderate physical distancing protocols,” and “Bars may operate with diminished standing-room occupancy where applicable and appropriate.”
In this situation, there may be potential for the actual Disney theme parks to open…with several capacity limitations and physical restrictions for guests.
Here we might see social distancing protocol required in the parks, phased reopenings for some sections of the parks, and modifications made to some attractions to avoid congregating in the same area groups of over 50 people at once.
Click HERE to See Capacity Limits, Modifications, and Phased Openings We Might See When Disney World Reopens.
Phase 2 Addresses The Re-Introduction of Non-Essential Travel
Finally, Phase 2 of the Guidelines is also the first mention that non-essential travel could resume safely. This is crucial for Disneyland and (especially) Walt Disney World when it comes to the bottom line.
The Disney park closures are costing the Walt Disney Company millions each day. And despite the debt Disney is assuming, it will still take a significant amount of time to recover financially from this massive hit across their entire multi-media enterprise.
If non-essential travel begins to increase, guests could again feel comfortable traveling to the parks, which could help the company begin to recoup at least some of its financial loss during the crisis.
But Is This How It Will Go?
Again, the Federal Guidelines clearly state that the matter is in the hands of the local and state governments, and that they are free to implement these guidelines as they see fit.
We’ve already seen very different approaches to current and future protocol in Florida and California, so we can only speculate whether or not these guidelines will factor into their upcoming strategies.
As always, we here at Disney Food Blog will continue to monitor the situation and keep you updated on the latest information. We have readers e-mailing and messaging us every single day asking about our predictions for the reopening of the Disney parks. And while we cannot make predictions, we can report facts and information. Hopefully this will help guide you as you determine the best next steps for your Disney vacations.