Orlando theme parks Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom are set to reopen Saturday even though coronavirus cases in Florida are surging and experts are calling for the state to be shut down as the United States struggles to control the health crisis.
The Disney parks, which have been closed since March, will reopen under stringent new health and safety guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus, which so far has claimed at least 130,000 lives nationwide.
Guests age 2 and older must wear a face covering, and those who enter the park will be subject to temperature screenings. Those with a temperature above 100.4 degrees will be refused entry, as will their companions.
Visitor numbers will be reduced, and hand-sanitizing stations will be available for staff and guests to use. Visitors will not be allowed to hug their favorite Disney characters, and they will be asked not to pay in cash.
“The magic returns beginning July 11,” reads a statement on the official Walt Disney website, although many have expressed concerns that the attraction’s return could be far from magical.
Health-care workers in Florida say the situation is dire and that hospitals are “overfilled and understaffed.” Fedrick Ingram, president of the Florida Education Association, said the state is going backward in its handling of the crisis.
Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Product, said last month that the health and safety of staff and visitors were “top of mind” and that although the parks will be operating under new measures, the Disney experience would not change. “We recognize the trust that you have in the Disney brand, and we will continue to earn your trust every day,” he said.
Disney World’s other main parks, Epcot and Hollywood Studios, will reopen July 15, while Disneyland in California will remain closed until further notice.