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Walt Disney World Plans to Reopen Magic Kingdom & Animal Kingdom July 11th with Phased Soft Openings

Watching the Orange County Task Force meeting this morning with a mix of nervousness and excitement, I could not wait to hear from the representatives of SeaWorld Orlando and Walt Disney World as they presented their proposals for reopening. I was also very intrigued at the beginning with the role call of members of the task force, seeing who was on the task force as well as the virtual format of this meeting and of how this meeting was taking place. But enough with my geekiness, let’s get to the nitty gritty of what we all have been waiting for.

After the adaption of the meetings, public comments were read. There were five comments from citizens that were read. The physicians on the task force presented data regarding the COVID 19 statistics were given. There was also a question regarding a second wave was asked and if they felt there would be a second wave. The physicians all agreed that a second wave is more than likely and that is why compliance from the citizens of social distancing and face coverings is extremely important and close monitoring and tracking by city, county and state officials will continue. Discussion of preparation moving forward with the phased openings was concentrated on people’s behavior and compliance and how well people continue to obey the guidelines and regulation will have a direct impact of how the numbers progress. I thought this was very important as it really seems that we have a big role and responsibility moving forward to make sure that business and the theme parks are successful in staying open.

The first to talk about their proposal and presentation was Marc Swanson, Interum CEO, Brad Gilmore, Kyle Miller from SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment. They are targeting to open on June 10th for Employee Appreciation Night and then open to the public on June 11th. After presenting their plans for safety and guidelines, making sure that the health and well being is a top priority. Face coverings will be required for guests and employees. All guests will be required to undergo temperature screenings as well as employees. There will be social distancing through markings and signage throughout the park, contactless payment systems and plexiglass. There will also be more hand sanitizer stations and cleanliness protocols. Tickets and entering the park will be contactless and no finger scanning. Restaurants will undergo cleaning protocols and grab and go items will be available as well as buffets will be modified or closed till further notice.

As far as the animal interactions, there will be markings for social distancing, sanitizing of handrails and animal viewing areas. Within public spaces throughout the parks and shows, there will be enhanced sanitation and physical distance throughout the show seating. For the rides, there will be hand sanitizer when you get on the ride and off the ride as well as enhanced sanitation of the ride. There will be parades but at a safe distance and physical distance in place. There was not really any details given on how this was going to take place.

In regards to Aquatica and Discovery Cove, there will be limited capacity throughout the park and spreading of the lounge chairs etc. Again, there was not much detail given on how this would be or what the limited capacity percentage would be.

Next was Jim McPhee, Senior Vice President of Operations, Walt Disney World. As far as the parks dates reopenings it would be as follows. Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom would open July 11th and Hollywood Studios and Epcot on July 15th. There will be cast member previews first but those exact dates were not given as of yet. There will be significant limited capacity protocols and enhancement to safety protocols. There will also be a reservation system and reservations will be required for park entry. Details on capacity numbers and how the reservation system will proceed were not yet given at this time but will be coming out in the near future.

Face covering for all guests and employees, temperature screenings and physical distancing and significant capacity throughout the park. Also there will be limited capacity in restaurants, retail shops and attractions. Cast members will also be encouraged to do temperature checks and health screenings at home but will also undergo temperature screenings on site. There will be cashless payment options, increased sanitization, as well as a suspension of meet and greets and other attraction changes. Also, backstage areas will have enhanced safety measures implemented.

There will a suspension of fireworks, parades and shows that bring and have crowds. There was not a date given of when these may resume. There will be a focus to touch points. Magic band usage will also be enhanced but again, details of what this may be were not shared at this time. Playgrounds and water effects will also be suspended. A campaign of ‘know before you go’ will be rolled out so that guests will know what to expect and what is expected from them during their trip to Walt Disney World. There will also now be a social distance squad that will be encouraging and motivating guests to follow the guidelines in a magical way.

Message and signage is super important to the Walt Disney World Resort and their will be signs throughout the que lines and entry points throughout the parks.

Questions that were posed to the task force was:

What would be a recourse of what would happen if guests do not comply either with face coverings or social distancing? The question was answered that they really have not had an issue and that their social distancing squad would encourage compliance in a friendly manner and hopefully people understand that. It was also reiterated by SeaWorld representatives but there was not an answer given as far as what the repercussions would be for those that do not comply.

Contactless menus with QR Codes was another issue that was recommended and Walt Disney World representatives from SeaWorld Orlando also mentioned that this is being implemented as well as SeaWorld stating that park maps would be eliminated as well. There was also discussion about recirculating menus every 4th day rather than throw away paper menus and wasting paper.

Mayor Demming did commend both Seaworld and Walt Disney World Parks for their due diligence and extensive thoughtful process in making sure the safety of guests and employees are being approached with the guidance of the CDC and Florida Department of Health. A vote was taken to accept the proposals and plans and Mayor Demming did note that they would be reviewing the presentations and after that would be making their recommendations as to moving forward.

Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force; Spokesmayne