Cinderella's Castle at Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World and other theme parks have been closed for a month and a half and at this point nobody knows when the parks will be open again. The state of Florida has shown no signs of when such a big decision might be made, but the state now has a plan for what places like Walt Disney World will be expected to do when that day comes.

Florida's Economic Recovery Task Force, which included members from both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort, released their plan which breaks down business reopenings into two phases. Theme parks, being a major part of Florida tourism, were given their own segment in the plan, which includes social distancing in standby queues, as well as limiting park capacity to half or three-quarters of what the park can actually handle. Check out the full list of guidelines and mandates for theme parks below.

Guidelines:
Tape marking of 6 feet apart in ride/attraction queues
Staff to regularly wipe down surfaces at random
Phase 1 and 2:Staff who are 65+ are encouraged to stay home

Mandates:
All employees required to wear facemasks
Touchless hand sanitizer at each ticketing entry and turnstiles
Touchless hand sanitizer at each ride/attraction entry and exit
Temperature checks for staff prior to shift (temp above 100.4 must not enter premises)
Wipe down of all railing and surfaces regularly
Phase 1:50% capacity
Phase 2:75% capacity

Most of the points are to be expected. Staff are wearing masks and hand sanitizer is available basically anywhere that guests might be touching surfaces regularly touched by other guests before them. Temperature checks of staff are also included.

Six-foot markings in attraction queues would certainly change the way ride lines are handled, but since the task force is recommending that the parks only open to half capacity during the first phase, those two things probably work together well enough that there won't be significant issues with crowds since lines will only have half as many people as they usually do. This would also likely mean that not all staff would be brought back, as fewer employees would be needed to handle smaller crowds, which helps with social distancing, but would still leave many out of a job.

What's not included here, even as a guideline, are temperature checks for the guests. Disney Executive Chairman Bob Iger has spoken about that possibility, and while it seems that Florida isn't requiring, or even requesting, such a measure, it's certainly still possible Disney could do it itself if it feels such a decision is necessary for guest confidence.

Of course, Walt Disney World isn't simply theme parks. Restaurants and hotels have their own sets of guidelines and mandates under this plan. Florida recommends hotel housekeeping to be limited in order to reduce guest and employee exposure to each other. Room service orders would only be delivered to doors. While hotels would begin to function, the large conferences that often take place in many hotels, especially Disney hotels, would not be allowed.

In restaurants, disposable menus are recommended. Tables would need to be six feet apart, and could only be at 50% capacity during Phase 1, and 75% capacity during Phase 2, just like the theme parks themselves.

While all of these guidelines and mandates make sense, it will be interesting to see how they are implemented in the theme parks. Would a park at half capacity feel significantly less crowded? Would people moving about really be able to keep social distance? Of course, that assumes the parks would reach 50% capacity, at this point, it's hard to tell exactly how many people will be rushing back to Walt Disney World, even once the option to do so exists.

Over in California, the state has issued its own guidelines for business reopening. There, theme parks like Disneyland were not specifically called out, but based on the guidelines, the parks would likely open in Phase 3 or Phase 4 of a four phase plan. In both states, it seems clear that theme parks will not be opening soon simply because they are places where the virus can easily spread among large groups.

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