When Disney World re-opens will Florida residents be the first guests back inside the parks?
The Disney World parks have been closed since March 16th, and the closure is currently set to remain in place “until further notice.” But now that both state and local governments have created task forces to discuss the re-opening of businesses, we’re getting a glimpse into what Disney World might look like when it re-opens. When the gates do open, will Florida residents be the first guests allowed in the parks? Here’s what we know so far.
Government Guidelines for Re-Opening Businesses
Let’s start with a quick top-down look at the government approach for re-opening businesses to determine where we should look for the guidelines to reopen Disney World. While Federal guidelines were suggested, it was stated that these will be, “implementable on a statewide or county-by-county basis at governors’ discretion.”
In other words, the state and local governments will have the final say in the guidelines that are applied. So, what have the Florida state and local governments determined?
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has assembled the Re-Open Florida Task Force Executive Committee to discuss the re-opening of Florida’s economy. This group, comprised of 22 business people and state leaders, has discussed time-tables for reopening state attractions that may involve a phased reopening for “[Florida] State residents, then national and international visitors.”
In addition, the Florida state government task force has established benchmarks for how the re-opening phases will proceed, including syndromic surveillance, epidemiology & outbreak decline, and health care capability.
The timeline includes a total of three Phases. Theme parks might consider reopening with Phase Two — with capacity limits, strict distancing, and proper cleanliness measures.
The guidelines put forth by the Orange County, Florida, task force establish similar procedures — theme parks should operate at reduced capacity with increased health and sanitation measures in place.
It’s worth noting that both Florida and Orange County’s guidelines at this time are only suggestions for businesses to follow, not enforceable laws.
Why Might Disney World Open to Florida Residents First?
As mentioned above, the Re-Open Florida Task Force Executive Committee has already suggested the possibility of a phased re-opening for state attractions, beginning with Florida residents.
If Disney does opt for this route, it would be easier to track if the health protocols in place are working. If any spikes in illness numbers do occur due to the re-opening of the parks, it would be clearer to note the trend in a concentrated population within the state, as opposed to tracking infections spread across the country.
This would support the Florida task force initiative of syndromic surveillance. And it would also help Disney comply with the calls for reduced capacity in theme parks.
Both the Re-Open Florida Task Force and the Orange County Economic Task Force suggest parks re-open at 50% capacity. In order to meet these guidelines, Disney could choose to open their parks only to a specific group at first, such as Florida residents.
And while the Federal guidelines deferred to the states, it is worth noting that non-essential travel isn’t considered safe until Phase 2 of the Federal plan. This could have more of an impact on visitors from out of state if their governors put forth similar guidelines for non-essential travel. Disney could choose to begin re-opening for Florida residents to avoid contradicting guidelines from governors in other states.
So, with the state and local government goals of increased tracking of cases and reduced capacity upon re-opening theme parks, it seems possible that Disney could consider the possibility of allowing Florida residents into the parks first.
That said, the phased or gradual reopening prioritizing Florida residents has not been a factor in the re-opening of Disney Springs restaurants and shops, some of which will be reopening as soon as May 20th. Additionally, Disney World is currently accepting hotel reservations beginning July 1st, and they have not limited these reservations to Florida residents only. The decision is not yet clear whether Disney World will limit park capacity by prioritizing Florida residents at this time.
We’re keeping an eye out for any additional task force updates or word from Disney and we’ll keep you all in the loop as more developments happen!
Do you think Disney World should re-open to Florida residents first? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.