Will Disney Theme Parks Re-Open on April 1st?
The Walt Disney Company recently announced its intention to shut down all its parks in the Western Hemisphere. At the time, Disney indicated that its parks would return on April 1st. Will they, or is this an early April Fool’s Day prank? Let’s take a hard look at when Disney parks will re-open.
What We Know About Disney’s Parks
The other day, Disney park officials published an official statement about closing Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Walt Disney World. You can read the tweets below:
— Disney Parks News (@DisneyParksNews) March 12, 2020
— Disney Parks News (@DisneyParksNews) March 13, 2020
So, Disney will only acknowledge that its parks will close for the rest of March. How realistic is that timeline? A lot depends on external factors beyond the company’s control.
I mentioned in the latest edition of MickeyBlog News that Shanghai Disneyland partially re-opened on its 45th day. However, the actual theme park isn’t operating yet, only some stores and restaurants. Shanghai officials haven’t announced when the theme park will open to the public. The belief is that this will happen soon, though.
Americans have had several weeks to watch the pandemic spread across the world. While the government was slow to act at first, last Wednesday, March 11th, became an inflection point.
After an NBA player tested positive for COVID-19, the league shut down. Other sports quickly followed. By Friday evening, many public officials had persuaded the holders of most large gatherings to close for a while. Meanwhile, many businesses advised employees to work from home.
Unfortunately, a great deal of misinformation and no small amount of human recklessness has slowed progress. Some folks have gotten a thrill from ignoring prudent advice about their health…which is odd.
Realistically, Disney has done its part, though. The question is whether others have followed the same protocols. And we just received a strong hint that they haven’t.
The CDC Suggests Something Unprecedented
On Sunday, March 15th, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided new guidelines about Coronavirus. The suggested protocols are significantly stricter. They also stir up some questions about the proposed April 1st timeline at Disney theme parks.
The CDC did its job by providing guidance about COVID-19. The official statement is available here, but I’ve copied the text here:
“Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities. Examples of large events and mass gatherings include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies. These events can be planned not only by organizations and communities but also by individuals.
Therefore, CDC, in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings, recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.
Events of any size should only be continued if they can be carried out with adherence to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populations, hand hygiene, and social distancing. When feasible, organizers could modify events to be virtual.
This recommendation does not apply to the day to day operation of organizations such as schools, institutes of higher learning, or businesses. This recommendation is made in an attempt to reduce introduction of the virus into new communities and to slow the spread of infection in communities already affected by the virus. This recommendation is not intended to supersede the advice of local public health officials.”
What the CDC Just Said
I know that it’s a lot to process. Let’s focus on the crux of it. The CDC has publicly discouraged gatherings of 50+ people. In fact, the posting reads like an admonishment of the American public’s response to date.
If a company ignores this recommendation, it can leave the business open to lawsuits. If either an employee or customer contracts COVID-19, the business must explain why it ignored CDC guidelines. Not coincidentally, lots of places suddenly got serious about Coronavirus in the wake of the CDC statement.
Why has the organization taken such an extraordinary step? Well, the data analysts at the CDC know the current data and trending behavior. They understand the importance of flattening the curve, the hot-button subject of the moment.
The gist is that people can slow the expansion of a virus by employing hygienic practices. I’m going to say something troubling here to make the underlying point. The CDC knows that infections will occur.
The Math of Flattening the Curve
However, the organization wants fewer daily infections because 100 infections today at a 10 percent growth rate leads to 110 infections tomorrow. At a 50 percent growth rate, the total is 150.
Here’s the stat that will grab your attention, On day number 10, the 10 percent growth rate means 260 infected citizens. At a 50 percent growth rate, it’s 5,767 sick people instead, a dramatic difference in affected citizens. The numbers grow worse from there. By day 20 at 50 percent infection rate, more than 330,000 Americans would have Coronavirus. By day 37, we would ALL have it.
So, when you hear “flattening the curve,” think about lowering the number of infections by a dramatically large amount. I’m not going to tell you what the rate of infection is right now in the United States, as that might alarm you. Plus, the current data isn’t necessarily correct.
What I will say instead is that the rate has decreased substantially in the countries that COVID-19 affected the earliest. In other words, most affected nations have seemingly gotten Coronavirus under control.
American CDC officials have learned from what has worked overseas. And they’ve also taken note of what tactics have failed in places like Italy. So, the CDC has developed an aggressive plan of action. Since people weren’t taking it seriously, the CDC has laid down the law.
The people whose literal job is to protect humanity from the spread of disease just told everybody to stay inside. They had to do it because of tweets like this:
Downtown Nashville is undefeated. pic.twitter.com/BFIOzukFct
— Janna Abraham (@SportsPundette) March 15, 2020
CHICAGO✈️: A man shared this video of a crowd of people at the Chicago O'Hare International Airport on Saturday. The man said the people in this hallway were traveling from different countries & states. He said it took him 4.5 hours to get through.
Video courtesy:Joe Rosengarten pic.twitter.com/jJJYEBaD0t
— Louie_tran (@louie_tran) March 15, 2020
has led to situations like this:
— Brantly Keiek (@BrantlyWx) March 16, 2020
Where Does This Leave Disney?
The CDC has asked the entire United States to go on lockdown for the next eight weeks. On the calendar, that would mean May 11th is when society can escape its collective cabin fever.
Theoretically, the CDC would expect Disney theme parks to remain closed for this amount of time as well, as they qualify as public gatherings. However, there’s a key component to this discussion. The CDC has attempted to flatten the curve by taking action right now.
Presuming that this tactic works, here’s what we’ll hear six months from now. “The media exaggerated Coronavirus. It turned out to be no big deal, and we were holed up in our homes for no good reason.”
That sort of hindsight statement means that the CDC did its job. They convinced enough people to take the matter seriously, and the smarter, more hygienic behavior slowed the infection rate for Coronavirus. It’s always better for people to complain later about being temporarily inconvenienced than for citizens to get sick now.
Disney’s caught in the middle of that. The company cannot act irresponsibly about the health of its customers. Thankfully, we love Disney because its cast members don’t think that way. In fact, Disney just spent millions demonstrating how much it cares about customers.
So, Disney acted by shutting down the parks. They did it before many others in the tourist industry reacted. Obviously, Disney would like to come back quickly, though. The company loses millions each day that the parks aren’t in operation.
Will Disney Parks Be Open in April?
That’s the multi-million dollar question. Given the CDC’s ruling, it seems likely that Disney will stay closed for eight weeks. That’s not necessarily the case, though. Presuming that the CDC acted quickly enough, the United States might reduce the infection rate sooner.
As you just learned, the situation becomes much more manageable when the curve flattens. If the CDC believes that the infection rate is under control, it will lessen its current guidelines for public interactions.
My semi-informed opinion is that America will remain under the CDC’s gathering guidelines for six weeks at the most.
I’m hopeful that the closure will last four weeks or less, but then I read about idiots wanting to lick church floors. Seriously.
“One pastor said half of his church is ready to lick the floor, to prove there’s no actual virus,” an Arkansas pastor told me. “In your more politically conservative regions, closing is not interpreted as caring for you. It’s interpreted as liberalism.”https://t.co/n1pweTSS3Q
— Julie Zauzmer (@JulieZauzmer) March 15, 2020
We get Disney back when we get people like that under control. I’m an optimist by nature, and I believe it will happen soon enough. Disney does as well. If the company believed that everyone would remain homebound through May 11th, it would have moved the release date of Black Widow from May 1st.
I fully expect Disney theme parks to re-open at some point in April. I don’t think it will happen by April 1st, though. Having said that, I certainly don’t dismiss the possibility. Cast members are miracle workers, after all.
Feature Image: Gerard McGovern/Wikimedia Commons