Will Disney Parks Remain Open No Matter What?
Walt Disney World theme parks returned about six weeks ago.
Since then, we’ve learned a lot about what Disney can and cannot do during a pandemic.
We’ve also watched in shock as other Disney theme parks have failed to reopen or in other cases to return, only to close soon afterward.
Some fans worry about the current state of Disney, and they wonder whether their vacation plans could fall apart.
They want to know the answer to a simple question. Will Disney parks remain open, no matter what? Read on to find out…
The Walt Disney Company announced the triumphant return of Walt Disney World theme parks on May 27th.
By that date, the state of Florida had confirmed 52,634 cases of COVID-19. On the specific day, Florida registered 379 new infections.
The numbers appeared reasonable enough for Disney to restore park operations.
CEO Bob Chapek and his fellow executives understood that the parks would require several weeks before they could return.
Disney had to implement new cleaning procedures. Plus, the company needed to train cast members on the proper cleaning techniques.
A few days later, a competitor, Universal Orlando Resort, reopened to the public.
This move buoyed the confidence of Disney executives. If Universal could operate safely, Disney certainly would.
The Change in Status
Alas, the situation took a precipitous decline in the following weeks.
Florida suffered multiple COVID-19 outbreaks. The state’s inconsistent implementation of safety measures produced disastrous consequences.
By June 3rd, new daily cases had swelled to 1,317. Florida was trending wrong, and everyone knew it.
Remarkably, the situation declined from there. On June 22nd, Florida reported its 100,000th case. In one month, infections more than doubled.
Disney executives faced an impossible choice. They’d already ramped up operations at the theme parks.
If Disney canceled the reopening, they’d swallow those expenses.
Even worse, the company would have to furlough the cast members it had just brought back.
At this point, all Disney could do was hope for the best about infection rates.
Well, you know how that turned out. By June 30th, Florida Coronavirus cases had increased to 150,000. On July 5th, the state crossed 200,000.
So, in less than two weeks, Florida more than doubled its total COVID-19 infections.
On July 11th, Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom returned, bringing much joy into the hearts of Disney fans.
By this point, Florida had surpassed 250,000 infections.
The state had quintupled the number of Coronavirus cases in the time since Disney announced its reopening.
Social media memes and viral videos lambasted Disney for reopening under such circumstances, shamelessly ignoring the fact that Universal had been back the whole time.
Many chided Disney executives for not calling the whole thing off, failing to understand the challenges of stopping a reopening in mid-motion.
The Outside Factors
While Walt Disney World reopened, a different storyline played out in California.
Disneyland had scheduled its reopening only two days later, on July 17th.
The symbolism of this date matters, as it marks the 65th anniversary of the park’s debut.
While Florida suffered multiple outbreaks, the same thing happened on the West Coast.
State officials in California responded to the matter quite differently. They delayed the release of theme park reopening guidelines.
Disney executives had no choice but to cancel reopening plans at the Happiest Place on Earth.
Even now, Disneyland remains closed and will stay that way until the start of September, at a minimum.
Meanwhile, something even stranger happened overseas.
Shanghai Disneyland gave hope to all Disney fans when it reopened on May 11th.
Disney could have brought back Hong Kong Disneyland around the same time but chose to wait.
Civil unrest in the region created secondary problems for park officials.
Eventually, Hong Kong Disneyland reopened on June 18th, a few weeks before Walt Disney World.
On July 15th, Hong Kong Disneyland closed again. Even by pandemic standards, this turn of events devastated Disney fans.
The Hong Kong government tracked a new outbreak and proactively tried to shut down the high-risk areas, including theme parks.
How many new infections did Hong Kong have that day? 52.
At the time, Disney officials described the closure as temporary. However, more than a month later, the park remains closed.
According to the most recent count, Hong Kong confirmed 154 cases over the past three days, an average of 51.
So, the situation hasn’t improved enough for Hong Kong Disneyland to reopen.
Could the Same Thing Happen at Walt Disney World?
Here’s the question that has haunted Disney fans for the past month.
We’ve watched in horror as Hong Kong Disneyland suffered a secondary outbreak, closing a previously reopened park.
Is the same thing possible at Walt Disney World?
If I’m being honest, absolutely. Coronavirus remains a mystery in many ways, and we as a people haven’t handled it well.
The best description I’ve seen is that the American government has handled Coronavirus about as well as the Ministry of Magic dealt with Voldemort’s return.
Should Florida experience another savage outbreak, anything is possible.
I mean, we don’t even know who will be running the country in 10 weeks. And politics has played a significant factor in what’s transpired.
That’s the doomsday scenario opinion, though.
In reality, Walt Disney World is trending the right way again. Florida reported only 6,516 cases on August 17th and August 18th.
I understand that some people question the validity of these reports, but here’s the silver lining.
Even if they’re wrong by half, daily infections are STILL 50 percent lower than during the height of the outbreak.
When Disney announced its return, new cases were in the 1,300 range. Right now, they’re at 3,200 and dropping quickly.
As long as nobody does anything stupid, the pandemic is irrefutably back under control.
Let’s presume the worst for a moment. Let’s say that Florida does suffer another outbreak.
Even in that scenario, I suspect Walt Disney World would remain open.
I say this because park officials have data regarding how everyone did during the worst of the pandemic.
Florida has suffered more than 280,000 infections since Walt Disney World’s reopening date.
Disney hasn’t reported any signs of the outbreak at the parks.
This statement is particularly impressive when we consider that Major League Soccer and the National Basketball Association both arrived at Disney this summer.
You don’t see ESPN and CNN converge on the same story often, but the NBA’s Disney Bubble garnered headlines on both.
While everyone readied articles about what a bad idea it was, Disney and the NBA did something stunning.
The two entities created a playing environment so stable that athletes reported ZERO infections during the completion of the regular season.
The MLS proved similarly successful. That league has actually completed its Disney tournament and returned to regular season play at regular stadiums.
Park officials understandably have complete confidence in the safety methodology in place at Walt Disney World.
Perhaps that’s why Chapek stated during the latest Disney quarterly earnings call that Walt Disney World is back for good.
If the situation remains stable, or at least no worse than in July, the company remains committed to providing a joyous theme park experience to all.
In short, it seems safe to plan your Walt Disney World vacation again.