ORLANDO, Fla. - Walt Disney World will begin reopening in mid-July after being shut down for months because of the coronavirus pandemic. For many Disney fans who have been waiting, this is exciting news -- but keep in mind, your experience at the parks will be much different.
“Cast members will work with guests to make the experience as real, and as magical, as possible,” Jim MacPhee, Senior Vice President of Operations said on Wednesday. “We hope everyone will do their part to bring the magic of Disney World back into this new environment.”
Disney World will reopen in two phases, starting with the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom on Saturday, July 11. Hollywood Studios and Epcot would open days later on Wednesday, July 15.
There will be a number of new protocols in place to ensure that guests and cast members stay safe and healthy.
Here are some of the new safety measures to keep in mind if you plan on heading to the parks:
1. Mandatory temperature checks
Guests and cast members will all have to undergo temperature checks before they are allowed into any park. They are also asked to check their temperatures before leaving home to make sure they are not running a fever.
2. Face masks required
Face coverings will be required to be worn while in the parks by all guests ages 2 and older. It will also be mandatory for cast members. No word on if they will sell face masks in the parks.
3. "Social Distancing Squad"
Select cast members will be a part of the 'Social Distancing Squad' who will joyfully remind guests to practice social distancing. Signs will be on display throughout the parks.
4. Reservations required for entry
In order to control capacity, guests wishing to attend the theme parks will have to reserve their tickets in advance.
A press release states: “At this time, we are temporarily pausing new ticket sales and Disney Resort hotel reservations so we can focus on guests with existing tickets and reservations (Disney Vacation Club members can still make new reservations). Existing ticket holders and Annual Passholders will be able to make reservation requests in phases before new tickets are sold."
5. Contactless food purchases/cashless pay system
In addition to Plexiglass barriers, Disney says they are taking extra steps when it comes to food service to ensure that the least amount of contact is made while dining in the parks. Cash will be accepted, but MacPhee suggested on Wednesday that Disney's “magic wristbands" will be available to every guest.
6. No meet-and-greets
Disney characters will still be present at the parks, but meet-and-greets are canceled for the time being.
7. No parades or fireworks shows
To keep people from gathering in large crowds, Disney will not be holding any parades or the nightly fireworks shows until further notice.
8. Reduced capacity around parks
In addition to reducing the number of people allowed into the theme parks, capacity will also be managed at retail stores and restaurants to ensure social distancing.
9. Water effects will be limited or eliminated
Water areas will remain closed in order to avoid drawing crowds of spectators. With the hot Florida summer months coming, the CDC recently said that the coronavirus is not transmitted through pool water.
“There is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, spas, or water play areas,” the federal agency states, noting that “Proper operation and maintenance (including disinfection with chlorine and bromine) of these facilities should inactivate the virus in the water.”
10. Interactive play areas will remain closed
Children who love to run around and play in Disney's interactive kid areas will not be able to do so -- at least not for now. Disney says they are keeping those play areas closed to avoid putting their tiny guests at risk.