Chief Medical Officer Announces Considerations to Reopen Disney World & Disneyland

Disney Parks Chief Medical Officer Pam Hymel has released plans and considerations for reopening resorts, retail, restaurants, and theme parks at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. In this post, we’ll share the full details of her announcement, plus the latest from the Orange County Florida Economic Recovery Task Force meeting yesterday.

The good news here is that we finally have some tentative details about what things will look like at Walt Disney World and Disneyland in terms of capacity, logistics, health safety protocol, safety screening, and more. This should put an end to at least some of the speculation about what will happen operationally in the U.S. parks once they reopen. (Eh, who are we kidding?!)

As suggested by Bob Chapek in the Walt Disney Company’s second-quarter financial results call, the US parks will be looking at using the same measures as Shanghai Disneyland, which is on the precipice of reopening. That’s almost certainly why this announcement is coming right now, and should not be construed as a sign that a reopening of Walt Disney World and/or Disneyland is imminent. With that preface out of the way, below are details from Dr. Hymel’s announcement…

As noted above, new CEO Bob Chapek announced earlier this evening that Shanghai Disneyland Reopens Next Week With Limited Capacity & Health Measures. This is an encouraging sign for Disney parks and retail locations all over the world, including the U.S. parks. Disney has an extraordinarily talented team of health and safety experts who are some of the most experienced in the industry.

Together with colleagues in operations and local health and government authorities, Disney’s teams are evaluating several new and enhanced safety measures to helping guests and Cast Members stay well while working, staying, and playing at Disney. Dr. Hymel is also working closely with the US Travel Association on a set of guidelines the travel industry may tailor to their individual businesses to help demonstrate that safety of travelers is a top focus.

To that end, Dr. Hymel has shared an update about Disney’s plans and considerations as the company prepares for the reopening of its parks, resorts and stores. Disney is exploring:

Phased reopening: Disney is looking at all locations and how best to begin the reopening process, including a gradual reopening and/or partial reopening of certain locations. For example, the opening of retail and dining locations prior to the opening of theme parks.

Physical distancing and capacity measures: As you can imagine, managing guest density in queues, restaurants, hotels, ride vehicles and other facilities throughout the park and across the resort is a major focus, as Disney implements physical distancing guidelines based on guidance from health authorities, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and appropriate government agencies.

This will likely include implementation of guest capacity measures to comply with state and federal guidelines. Disney is also exploring ways to use technology to aid us in these efforts, like with the Play Disney Parks App and through virtual queues at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Cleanliness and sanitization: Disney is planning increased cleaning and disinfection, determining where that should take place (for example, in high-traffic areas), and the cleaning products and processes that will be used at Walt Disney World and Disneyland.

Screening and prevention support: Disney will follow guidance from the government and the medical community regarding enhanced screening procedures and prevention measures, including those related to personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face coverings. Some measures, like adding hand sanitizers and hand washing stations across the resorts, have already been implemented.

Cast Member training: Disney will further emphasizing its strong culture of health and safety amongst Cast Members, and will continue to provide new training and reinforcement as reopening draws nearer.

These are just a few examples of the many areas Disney Parks is developing plans for, so please keep an eye online channels, where more details will be provided as Disney cements and begins to implement these plans. Given the constantly changing global health environment, these practices may evolve as Disney considers the latest guidance, but the company will share more information closer to reopening.

In the meantime, Disney’s focus remains on the health and safety of the entire Disney community — including the wellbeing of the Cast Members who are caring for and securing the parks and resorts during the closure. Disney has already implemented a number of enhanced health and safety measures, such as increasing the frequency of cleaning and disinfection in work areas, adjusting practices to promote physical distancing, and providing Cast Members with access to necessary PPE, including face coverings. Disney continues to learn from these experiences and will carry these lessons into reopening and beyond.

For more minor details, read Dr. Hymel’s full statement: “A Message about Disney Parks from Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pamela Hymel.”

Again, this should not be viewed as a sign that Walt Disney World or Disneyland are preparing to open in the near future. The announcement doesn’t even give a vague timeline for that. The statement was released now due to the news that Shanghai Disneyland is reopening on May 11, 2020.

Moreover, literally all of this is subject to change. It’s likely that Disney will learn from and iterate upon its experiences reopening Shanghai Disneyland, seeing what works and what doesn’t. Beyond that, to some degree the procedures used there will need to be “localized” for the predominantly American audiences at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. Regardless, it’s good to see concrete details, even if they can/will change as the reopening date approaches.

If you want a preview of at least some of what’s likely in store for Walt Disney World and Disneyland, we’d highly recommend checking out our Shanghai Disneyland Reopening Announcement article. That offers specifics on health screening protocol, as well as reductions in entertainment, nighttime spectaculars, and more. Once again, there will undoubtedly be changes from what’s done there to what happens at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, but it should give you at least a vague idea of what’s to come.

As for timing, we don’t have any significant updates for you aside from recent statements by leaders in both California and Florida that indicate where each of those states (and the Orange Counties home to Disneyland and Walt Disney World) are in terms of reopening their economies. By way of quick recap, the approaches being taken by the two states are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Our headline Disneyland May Not Open for Months Under Plan pretty much says it all about California Governor Gavin Newsom’s four-stage proposal. And that’s the best case scenario. At the other end of the spectrum, our latest Walt Disney World Reopening Update discusses how Orange County Florida is essentially deferring to Disney as the state is eager to restart its tourism-centric economy.

A couple of things are worth underscoring with regard to both Walt Disney World and Disneyland.

First, as with Disney’s health protocol, these plans are subject to change based upon constantly evolving knowledge and circumstances. This is to say California’s plan could be accelerated or Florida’s could stall. Second, just because Disney has a certain path to reopening doesn’t mean they’ll take it–the parks on both coasts could remain closed even after state and local governments give the okay.

During an Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force meeting yesterday, Senior Vice President of Walt Disney World Resorts and Transportation Operations Thomas Mazloum flat-out stated, “we do not have any opening date yet…we’re taking bookings in June but that does not mean that we’re opening in June. At this time, I want to make it clear that we don’t have any plans to share for Walt Disney World, or any of our other parks for that matter.”

In a follow-up question, another member of the task force asked whether the January 1, 2021 reopening date that had been rumored had any basis in reality, noting that Disney waiting that long would be harmful for a lot of other Central Florida businesses. To that, Mazloum said: “I don’t want to comment on any speculation. I simply don’t have more information to share as of this point. At this point, we’ve simply closed until further notice and I’m not in a position to share anything regarding Walt Disney World.”

Immediately after, leadership from Universal and SeaWorld more or less reiterated the same, indicating that it would be inappropriate and premature to offer further guidance or speculation on a reopening date. Universal likewise is “in limbo right now” and can’t make a decision on when to reopen until health experts offer guidance and government officials set clearer date timeframes for subsequent phases of reopening. You can see the full video here (theme parks talk begins at around the 31 minute mark).

Ultimately, it’s good to know where Walt Disney World and Disneyland stand in terms of plans and considerations for capacity, logistics, health safety protocol, safety screening, etc., and it’s also nice to know that regular meetings and collaboration is occurring behind the scenes for the eventual reopening. This should put some speculation to rest, but the biggest piece of the puzzle–when Walt Disney World and Disneyland will reopen–will has yet to fall into place. None of this rules out (or confirms) June 1, 2020, but we’re starting to think it could be well past that date.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!


What do you think of Disney’s plans and considerations for reopening of resorts, retail, restaurants, and theme parks, including Walt Disney World and Disneyland? Does this signal to you that Disney wants to reopen the parks sooner rather than later? Or do you think the timing here is due solely to Shanghai Disneyland coming back online next week? Think Walt Disney World will reopen by Summer 2020? If not, what’s your predicted date/month? Keep comments respectful, apolitical, and on topic. Anything not following these requirements will be removed.

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