Disney parks around the world are all making plans for reopening. They have been closed for months, and the closure has been a financial hardship for Disney and every cast member who works at one of the parks and hasn't seen a paycheck in some time. Disney is clearly taking safety seriously, nobody is taking the decision to reopen lightly. However, Disneyland has now announced that the scheduled July 17 reopening will be delayed, and while that's not a "good" thing, it's probably the best choice of the available options, which are all bad.
To be clear, Disneyland's announcement states that the reason the reopening of Disneyland is being delayed is not because California is seeing a rising number of COVID-19 cases, though it is. The reason is that the state of California has yet to officially approve the reopening of Disneyland, and won't be releasing guidelines for theme parks reopening until sometime after the July 4th holiday. Disneyland simply won't be able to be ready to open by the 17th if the park doesn't know all the steps it needs to take until July 6th or later.
Now Is Not The Time For Disneyland To Reopen
The reason for the delay may be more of a paperwork issue than anything else, but it doesn't change the fact that delaying the reopening is probably the best choice. There was a time when July 17 seemed like a world away, that a great deal could change in that time, the problem is that the way things have changed in the last two weeks have not been encouraging. Things could change for the better in the next two weeks, but one hardly wants to bet the farm on that.
Certainly, even with virus spikes in the surrounding area, Disneyland's safety procedures should help. They should help a lot. It doesn't ultimately matter how many people are suffering from the virus or won't wear a mask in the area surrounding Disneyland if temperature checks and mask requirements at the resort itself filter all those people out. These things should work and keep everybody inside the park, guest and cast member alike, safe.
But because of the spikes in California the odds that somebody will get through only increase. Any gaps or glitches in the safety procedures are most likely to occur in the very beginning as these things are rolled out and cast members get used to them, so it would be best if this was all done in an environment where the situation was a bit safer.
Remaining closed is bad for Disneyland. It's just an empty plot of land that's generating no income for anybody, including all the people that work there, and let's not pretend the financial consideration isn't important. Sure Disneyland not making millions of dollars every day seems like the sort of thing only the CEO should care about, but a lot of that money goes to pay a lot of people who make their living there. A lack of income means layoffs, the Universal theme parks are already seeing that. This results in real people out of jobs.
But the worst case scenario is Disneyland reopening and then seeing a spike in cases traced back to Main Street U.S.A. That would mean closing again, and it would mean a lack of confidence in the safety measures from the public, which would likely mean that whenever Disneyland reopened again, many fewer people would feel safe returning. That's bad for Disneyland in the long term and it would take a lot of time to recover from that. The layoffs and other negative economic consequences still happen in that case, and they'd likely be worse.
Guests Have A Choice, Cast Members Don't
Guests know that they're taking a risk by reentering the park, and if they were only risking their own health, that would be one thing, but there are thousands of Disneyland cast members who will need to staff the Disneyland Resort, and even with the park opening to limited guest capacity most of the cast members will still be needed. Right now, after being furloughed, they can at least collect unemployment, but if the park reopens the cast members must either go back to work or lose what little income they are getting.
And going back to work means cast members going back into the community, not only interacting with other people at Disneyland but potentially having to deal with more people outside the resort simply by being out of the house. This Increases their odds of getting sick. Guests have a choice of whether to go to Disneyland when it reopens, cast members are largely having the choice made for them.
Disneyland's reopening is important. I've written about how Disneyland's reopening is itself the most important theme park reopening, possibly in the world, as far as the future goes. It's important that it works, not just for the health and safety of all who work there or visit, but for the confidence of the world. If Disneyland's reopening is successful, if everything works and people are able to enjoy themselves in safety, it's not only going to be good or Disneyland, but it's going to give everybody more confidence. It's also going to prove that social distancing and mask requirements work.
Waiting Can Only Benefit Disneyland
Beyond remaining closed until most of the world has been given a vaccine, there will be some level of risk when Disneyland reopens, regardless of when it happens. That risk can be managed, and I do believe that Disneyland will do a good job managing that risk, but nobody is perfect, and the odds of success only go up by waiting.
Disneyland is my favorite place in the world, I'd rather be there than just about anyplace else I can think of. There's nothing I want more in the world right now, in this time of chaos, than to sit at the Mint Julep Bar with a bag of Mickey Mouse beignets and a cup of coffee just after rope drop and watch the world go by. It's a moment of peaceful tranquility a rarely find anyplace else in the world and man could I use that right now. I want the park to reopen, and of course I want it to happen sooner rather than later. But I also want it to be done safely.
The fact that guests want to return to the parks shouldn't be overlooked. This has been a stressful time for everyone and having an outlet where people can have fun is good for all our mental health. Reopening Disneyland simply for the sake of having it open is something that needs to be considered, the importance of Disneyland as an icon and institution is absolutely part of this equation, but it needs to be done right.
At this point, when Disneyland reopens is anybody's guess. If California releases theme park guidelines shortly after July 4th, then we could see the resort reopen as quickly after that happens as Disneyland is able. It's possible California could intentionally delay releasing those guidelines in order to give the state time to get COVID-19 cases under control, in which case, it could be much longer. Waiting is a good. Evan a delay of just a couple of weeks could shift things to a better place.