Walt Disney World reopens as coronavirus cases surge in Florida

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Guests stop to take a photo at Magic Kingdom Park, July 11, 2020, at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on the first day of the theme park’s phased reopening. (Kent Phillips, Photographer)

ORLANDO, Fla. (Nexstar Media Wire) – “The Most Magical Place on Earth” is reopening after nearly four months with new rules in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom are reopening Saturday, while Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios will follow four days later.

The reopening comes as a huge surge of Floridians have tested positive for the new coronavirus in recent weeks. Many cities and counties around the state have recently reinstated restrictions that had been lifted in May, when cases seemed to drop.

All of Disney’s Orlando parks closed in mid-March in an effort to stop the virus’s spread. Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando closed around the same time but reopened several weeks ago after instituting similar rules to protect employees and customers from the virus.

Disney’s new rules include mandatory masks and social distancing. Visitors will need reservations to enter a park, and they won’t be allowed to hop between parks. Both visitors and employees will receive temperature checks when they enter. Fireworks shows and parades have been suspended to prevent drawing too many people together.

Disney has been opening its parks back up around the globe for the past two months. In May, the company opened Disney Springs, a complex of shops, restaurants and entertainment venues in Lake Buena Vista.

Disney will also limit capacity on the monorail, buses, ferry boats and other forms of Disney transportation. Disney recently installed barriers inside the monorail to allow for appropriate distancing.

All guests are required to make a Disney Park Pass reservation in advance of arriving at the park. Guests can link their existing tickets and reserve a spot to visit the theme park. Disney said tickets and hotel bookings may be released at different times throughout the day Thursday. Virtual waiting rooms will be used to manage the high volume of people making reservations. Reservations are limited and subject to availability. 

Disney is also utilizing its mobile app to encourage guests to use cashless payment and mobile menus at restaurants. Disney will also use mobile check-in at its sit-down restaurants.

Inside the parks, most attractions will be open to guests. Due to required physical distancing, some theater shows will not operate during the initial reopened phase.

Mickey, Minnie and other Disney characters will make special appearances throughout all four parks as part of special “cavalcade” parades that follow the traditional parade route. Other characters will surprise guests at random times throughout the parks. Other than a physically-distanced selfie, guests will not be allowed to take photos with characters.

When EPCOT opens on July 15, Disney will also debut its annual International Food and Wine Festival. This year’s festival includes food from 20 signature global marketplaces including Hawaii and the Caribbean.

“From increased cleaning and disinfecting across our parks and resorts, to updated health and safety policies, we have reimagined the Disney experience so we can all enjoy the magic responsibly,” Dr. Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer for Disney Parks’ Experiences and Products, said in a statement Tuesday.

Here’s what the reopened park will look like:

Rides and services that were suspended or closed

  • Valet service
  • Playgrounds
  • FastPass+
  • Extra Magic Hours are unavailable for resort guests
  • Parades and nighttime spectaculars
  • Character greetings
  • Minnie Van service
  • Delivery of merchandise to resort rooms or front of theme parks
  • Dressing rooms
  • Staff will not handle personal mobile devices
  • Club level service at resorts
  • In-room celebrations
  • In-room dining
  • Dry cleaning and valet laundry services (self service laundry is available)
  • Shipping services
  • Resort airline check-in service

Face coverings

  • Guests ages 2 and up and employees must bring their own face coverings and wear them at all times, except when dining or swimming.
  • The face coverings should fully cover their nose and mouth and be secured with ties or ear loops. They should be made with breathable material that can be disposed or reused. Costume masks are not allowed.

Reservations

  • Guests are required to make advanced ticket purchases and reservations through the new Disney Park Pass system.
  • If you’re an annual passholder, you can still use your pass, but new annual pass sales are on hold. You can still renew your pass.
  • The expiration date for partially unused multi-day tickets has been extended to Sept. 26, 2021

Temperature screenings

  • Guests will have to undergo temperature screenings for entry to some locations. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 F or above will be directed to another location for re-escreening. Guests will not be allowed entry if their temperature is still 100.4 F or above, and those in their party will be denied entry as well.

Enhanced cleaning

  • Extra attention will be given to high-traffic areas such as elevators, escalators, queues, dining areas, lobbies, and other common spaces.
  • Each Disney park will receive an enhanced cleaning before guests arrive the next day.
  • Walt Disney World hotels have also updated their cleaning standards to include enhanced cleaning and reduced contact.

Social Distancing

  • Disney has placed signage and ground markings throughout its parks to encourage guests to practice physical distancing and help them better navigate common areas.
  • Physical barriers have been put in places where it’s difficult to maintain social distancing
  • Employees have been trained to engage with guests and promote physical distancing in common areas

Cashless transactions

  • To limit the spread of the virus, guests are encouraged to use cashless payment options such as credit and debit cards, Disney gift cards, MagicBands, or contactless payment options such as mobile wallets.

My Disney Experience app

Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom Park are set to open on Saturday, July 11. The park has been closed to the public since March 14.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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