When Will Disneyland Reopen? Here’s What We Know
Disneyland could return on April 1st!
You’ve almost certainly heard the news by now, and you’re probably wondering whether it’s too good to be true.
The answer falls somewhere between yes and no.
Disneyland Resort hasn’t announced a formal reopening date yet…but it could.
Thanks to a recent policy change in California, the government has paved the way for the return of all theme parks.
So, when will Disneyland reopen? Read on to learn about park status…
The Bad Stuff
This week marks the first anniversary of Disneyland Resort closing due to Coronavirus.
On March 13th, 2020, the parks operated as usual, but everyone arrived knowing that the situation had changed.
The previous day, Disney officials had announced that Disneyland Resort would close indefinitely on March 14th.
So, March 13th served as a kind of celebration/wake, as California locals lamented the unfortunate situation.
Even on that day, crowds proved scarce. We were less than 36 hours removed from Rudy Gobert’s accidental shutdown of the NBA.
Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson had just confirmed their COVID-19 status as well.
People freaked out and therefore shied away from visiting theme parks.
One site had projected massive crowds for a Spring Break Friday. Then, it updated to reflect the observed crowd size as 1 out of 10.
In other words, on the last day that Disneyland operated its parks, few customers attended.
We’re in week 52 of the pandemic, and some elements of Disney Resort have reopened.
Downtown Disney returned on July 9th, a move that park officials viewed as a precursor to the comeback of Disneyland.
You may recall that Disney had announced a July 17th return for the park, which would have commemorated its 65th anniversary.
Instead, the parks remained empty, as an outbreak in California wiped out any reasonable chance of Disneyland’s return.
On June 25th, executives revealed that Disneyland’s reopening plans were off.
At the same time, California crossed 200,000 COVID-19 cases with 5,812 deaths.
As I type this, the state’s current totals are 3.6 million cases and 54,223 deaths. The past year has proven nightmarish in every possible way.
However, Disney fans have recently found a new hope.
The New Stuff
Toward the end of 2020, Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech both received federal approval for COVID-19 vaccines.
These two tide-turning events occurred a week apart on December 11th and December 18th.
Since then, the two Pharma companies have ramped up production to meet needs in both the United States and other countries.
Several incidents have delayed distribution, including an unfortunate governmental decision not to buy more doses.
Despite these setbacks, mass production of the vaccine has grown in earnest during 2021.
Here’s some recent data from Drew Armstrong, Bloomberg’s Senior Editor for Health Care:
💉VACCINE DATA UPDATE (March 8)🇺🇸
📊1.7M doses today; 7-day avg=2.17M/day
➕US: 92.1M doses total
⚠️Data *do not* include U.S. J&J doses; those may come later today. The 🇺🇸 figure may change substantially.
— Drew Armstrong (@ArmstrongDrew) March 8, 2021
Yes, the United States has managed almost 2.2 million daily vaccine doses over the past week.
Also, that total doesn’t include an x-factor. The less effective Johnson & Johnson vaccine received federal approval on February 27th.
This one qualifies as the game-changer, as it’s more readily available and only requires one shot.
Johnson & Johnson has indicated that it will distribute 20 million doses by the end of March. That’s 20 million Americans who are 65 percent safe from infection.
While the other shots protect people at a 90-95 percent rate, we can always take another vaccination later.
The primary goal at the moment is reducing the number of potentially infected people and thereby protecting those at risk.
Extrapolating from Armstrong’s data, we’re already fully protecting one million people per day.
Once the Johnson & Johnson doses increase in availability, we’ll reach herd immunity more quickly.
However, even before then, Disneyland may reopen safely. All it needs is for the tide to turn in California. Speaking of which…
The Good Stuff
In October of 2020, former Disney CEO Bob Iger quit the California task force set up for its pandemic economic recovery.
Iger lamented the glacial process in reopening the state, particularly its theme park industry.
California established tiers to identify when various businesses could reopen. The state evaluates these tiers per county.
As a reminder, here are the tiers:
- Widespread (Purple) – more than 7 infections per 100,000 residents
- Substantial (Red) – 4.0 – 7.0 infections per 100,000 residents
- Moderate (Orange) – 1.0 – 3.9 infections per 100,000 residents
- Minimal (Yellow) – less than 1 infection per 100,000 residents
For the sake of convenience, I’m excluding a second parameter, the percentage of positive tests.
Orange County obviously features a massive metropolitan area. As such, it’s prone to higher infection rates than less populated parts of California.
This aspect has created the divide that caused Iger to break from California’s governor and health advisors.
On October 20th, California declared that Disneyland could reopen under circumstances that Iger viewed as draconian.
The government decided that larger theme parks like Disneyland Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood couldn’t open until the Yellow Tier.
In other words, Orange County would need less than one infection per 100,000 people before Disneyland could return.
In other words, Disneyland’s reopening was impossible until new daily cases dropped to 31 or less in Orange County.
That’s been the sticking point for the past four months. However, the tide just turned.
California’s governor just updated the rules due to the prevalence of vaccines available.
Now, all theme parks may open on April 1st! The only catch is that counties in the Red Tier may only operate at 15 percent capacity.
Orange County currently falls into the Purple Tier. However, officials expect it’ll switch to the Red Tier during the next evaluation.
When Will Disneyland Reopen?
So, when Orange County switches tiers, Disneyland can feasibly reopen. And the tiers have changed some, too!
The Red Tier has increased to 10 new cases per 100,000. So, that’s a more achievable goal anyway.
When California announced the news, Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock posted the following:
— Disney Parks News (@DisneyParksNews) March 5, 2021
You’ll notice that he doesn’t mention anything about April 1st. I suspect the reasons are twofold.
First, executives had already committed to A Touch of Disney, the ticketed event that begins on March 18th.
This food-based park visit proved so popular that demand overwhelmed the virtual queue system.
Disney extended the event by two weeks, making the final date April 19th. It would be ridiculous to open Disneyland but not Disney California Adventure.
Conversely, park officials have already committed the Disney California Adventure space to a ticketed event from noon through 8 p.m. on Friday-Monday.
Also, the parks could only operate at 15 percent capacity.
You may recall that CEO Bob Chapek previously indicated he wouldn’t reopen the parks unless they could turn a profit.
That would prove difficult with such capacity limits. However, Disney could operate at 25 percent in the Orange Tier.
With the current expansion of vaccinations, Orange County could reach that number in April.
You’ve probably noticed that there’s a tailing effect to Coronavirus illnesses. There’s a delay from getting the disease and growing seriously ill.
Orange County currently lists fewer than 300 COVID-19 hospitalizations, suggesting that it’s in a downturn.
As such, the situation is improving rapidly. I suspect that Disneyland officials know this and are planning for it.
Based on current information, I believe Disneyland should reopen by Memorial Day…and April remains an outside possibility!
That’s a drastic change from the start of 2021 when Disneyland hoped for a mid-July return!