To ensure we are equipping our readers with all the information they need, we will continue to report on all travel, safety, and COVID-related news that could impact a Disney Parks visit.
Disney World looks very different now than it did just under 2 years ago when the parks reopened after the pandemic closures. You won’t see many physical distancing markers on the ground anymore, mask mandates are all but gone, and most attractions, hotels, and restaurants have reopened. But is it safe to visit the parks right now?
We’ve kept up with changes to the COVID-19 pandemic situation in the US, including the Omicron variant and the newer BA.2.12.1 subvariant, in order to better understand the potential changes and dangers when it comes to traveling. Now, with many sources reporting a surge in COVID-19 cases this summer, we’re taking a closer look at the likelihood of this surge and how it could impact your upcoming Disney vacation.
Former White House COVID-19 response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx has been raising the alarm about a potential “exponential” surge in COVID-19 cases in the US this summer, according to the Palm Beach Post. Factors that could contribute to this surge include the spread of the newer BA.2.12.1 COVID subvariant and the increase in travel that we often see as families get together or go on vacations during the break from school.
So how likely is a surge in COVID-19 cases, and will that affect your upcoming vacation? Let’s dive in.
How Likely Is a Summer COVID-19 Surge?
Many experts are citing previous years to warn about a summer surge in cases. In an interview with CBS News, Dr. Birx pointed to 2021, which had a similar trend of COIVD-19 cases to what we’re seeing so far in 2022. Cases were higher at the start of the year because of the winter season and holiday travel, then these numbers dipped as the country responded to the increases with more vaccines and boosters and people settled back into a routine.
The decrease eventually led to a lull around April and May 2021, which ended in the summer months as people became more relaxed and began traveling again. Birx said, “Each of these surges [is] about 4 to 6 months apart” and stated that we could see a similar pattern continue in 2022.
She urged the public to prepare for a coming increase in cases like we saw in the summer of 2021.
AdventHealth’s Centra Care in Central Florida points to increases in COVID-19 cases, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “The urgent care facilities recorded a 23.7% COVID-19 test positivity rate on Thursday, compared to a 16% positivity rate three weeks ago,” reported Dr. Tim Hendrix, medical director at AdventHealth.
The White House also warned of a potential summer surge, stating the possibility that 100 million Americans could get infected with COVID-19 this fall and winter, with the wave beginning this summer in the South, according to The New York Times.
Confirmed cases have been rising across the US, with an average of 70,200 new cases each day in the country — an increase of 52% over the last 2 weeks. Hospitalizations are also rising nationally, “with an average of more than 18,400 people with the coronavirus in U.S. hospitals, an increase of 20 percent from two weeks ago.” Deaths also have increased by 1%, to an average of 371 per day.
A virologist at the Scripps Research Institute said, “I expect we’ll see a wave in the U.S. sooner than what most people expect” (New York Times).
Will This Potential Surge Be as Dangerous as Past Surges?
So a summer increase in COVID-19 cases seems to be fairly likely this year. But is the increase as dangerous as previous surges? Many experts don’t think so.
The Orlando Sentinel reported that some experts don’t think Central Florida will see a huge increase in COVID-19 cases. One analyst said, “I’m not that worried about it, because when we saw the surge for omicron, it shot up very quickly and it shot up in the multiple, multiple millions.”
Previously, surges did cause hospitalizations to rise significantly, although Dr. Hendrix of AdventHealth “believes the current increase in cases won’t lead to outcomes as severe as those seen during Florida’s winter omicron and summer delta waves […] because treatment is now widely available and the omicron variant appears to cause less severe infections” (Orlando Sentinel).
The head of Orange County Health Services reported that “there has not been a notable increase in hospitalizations” in the county. The Palm Beach Post cited medical experts who said that “they expect the current spate of infections to be milder than previous waves because most people are vaccinated, boosted, or have previously been infected by the main omicron strain.”
Dr. Birx is still encouraging people to be careful. She said, “It’s early. Give it a few weeks. Hospitalizations grow linearly, then become exponential.” She predicted the latest wave would fully take shape by the end of June 2022.
The White House is optimistic about the future when it comes to handling these surges. During a Global COVID-19 Summit, Vice President Kamala Harris said, “As we think about moving forward, I believe we can also come together — in addition to everything we have discussed — come together to shape new international norms on these issues.”
And The New York Times reported that “there are fewer Covid patients in intensive care units than during almost any other point in the pandemic.” Vaccines and boosters have been proving effective measures against COVID-19 and its variants.
How Could This Impact Disney World?
Since the parks reopened in 2020, Disney World has remained open. Based on Disney’s previous response to COVID-19 variants, it’s unlikely that the parks will close again for COVID-19 reasons, barring an extreme increase in cases unlike any we’ve seen thus far in the pandemic.
It is possible that Disney World could bring back health and safety measures that were previously ended, such as physical distancing or face mask mandates. To be safe, you should pack a few masks for your Disney World trip, just in case mandates suddenly pop up again while you’re there. That would save you the trouble and cost of buying masks in the parks.
What Should You Do?
Experts are encouraging people to understand their personal vulnerability when it comes to COVID-19 and take precautions accordingly. If you live with vulnerable people — such as elderly family members — be extra cautious by wearing face masks and testing for COVID-19 frequently.
Continue to watch for updates to the COVID-19 situation, and be prepared to follow advice from medical experts and other authorized leaders. Currently, it is considered safe for most people to travel, so long as you’re following the rules put in place by various countries regarding vaccinations and testing.
At the recent Global COVID-19 Summit, President Biden said, “Today, we’re at a new stage in fighting this pandemic, facing an evolving set of challenges. We have to double down on our efforts to get to — get shots in people’s arms, country by country, community by community; ensure we have reliable and predictable supplies of vaccines and boosters for everyone, everywhere; expand access globally to tests and treatments; and we have to prevent complacency.”
We’ll be sure to keep you updated about any changes to the COVID-19 situation and updates to Disney World’s Health & Safety procedures. Keep following DFB for all the latest news!