Walt Disney World has announced an extension to the current closure of Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios plus its Florida hotels past spring break and through at least mid-April 2020 due to the current public health crisis.
The current plan is for Walt Disney World to remain closed “until further notice.” Disney also has specifically indicated that it will continue to pay parks and resorts hourly Cast Members through April 18, 2020. This does not mean that the parks will reopen after that date, but we’re assuming they will remain closed until at least then. That means Easter and what’s left of remaining spring breaks are off the table, which is probably for the best in terms of containment.
We cover pretty much everything you need to know in our Walt Disney World Closure FAQ, including why you might not want to call Disney right now, and more. Here, we’ll offer some additional insight and thoughts on reopening, including why this extension should not come as any surprise for a number of reasons…
It’s unclear what this means in terms of cancellations, modifying reservations, and rebooking. DisneyWorld.com’s notice has been modified in several spots, and now reads: “If no action is taken by you before your check-in date for arrivals during the closure period, Disney will automatically cancel your reservation within 7 days of the original check-in date and process any refund due to the original form of payment.”
However, since the “closure period” is now presently undefined, this presumably means that auto-cancellations will simply occur on a rolling basis a week before check-in. Several readers have reported issues with Walt Disney World issuing refunds during this process, so we’d recommend being proactive about it.
Unfortunately, the phone lines are jammed and the website has slowed to a crawl, so you might want to give it a few days (if possible) before doing anything. Walt Disney World’s updated notice also indicates that they will “soon…share additional options for booking and modifying vacations.” (We’d love to hear firsthand feedback in the comments regarding phone hold times and success/failure in canceling, modifying, and rebooking!)
This comes after frustrated fans and Cast Members complained that Walt Disney World had been dragging its feet on extending the closure. It was a foregone conclusion that this was going to occur several days ago due to stay at home orders being issued at the county level. Despite this, Disney held off on extending, due to rumored strifes with local unions.
Prior to this, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings issued a stay-at-home order took effect on March 26 and lasts through at least April 9, 2020. This will require the county’s 1.3 million residents to only leave home for essential business, plus grocery store, takeout food, or pharmacy trips. People are allowed to exercise outside, but are discouraged from doing so in groups.
Officials for Osceola County likewise issued a similar order. These two counties are home to Walt Disney World, effectively forcing the parks and resorts–as non-essential businesses–to stay closed until at least that time. Both counties have indicated that the stay at home order is at least through April 9, 2020 and will be reevaluated thereafter.
After considerable criticism last weekend (including a scathing editorial in the Miami Herald), Florida Governor Ron DeSantis requested the federal government issue a Major Disaster Declaration in Florida to free up additional resources for fighting the outbreak. However, Governor DeSantis has not issued a statewide stay-at-home order like those imposed in California, New York, Illinois, and other states.
The number of cases in Florida has exploded, which follows media coverage showing crowded beaches and cringe-worthy interviews during the state’s lucrative spring break season. It’s too soon to say whether the state government is starting to treat this seriously, but at least it’s starting to occur on a local level.
At present, Florida now has 2,900 cases, including 34 deaths. There are 156 cases in Orange County, which has recorded three deaths. These numbers have roughly quadrupled since last weekend. Additionally, a fifth TSA worker at Orlando International Airport has tested positive.
However, it should be noted that the actual number of infections is undoubtedly higher as Florida is still in the process of ramping up testing and there are still over 1,000 pending tests.
Florida’s population is more vulnerable than most of the United States, especially considering that over 20% of the state’s 21.5 million residents are over 65 and have a heightened risk of dying.
Between that and its status as a hub for global tourism, it would thus stand to reason that Florida and Walt Disney World would be particularly diligent in battling the outbreak, and err on the side of caution. (For our part, we are certainly not eager for Walt Disney World to reopen any time soon. As much as we might love the place, we value health and safety more.)
Prior to Disney’s announcement, Universal Orlando extended their closure through April 19, 2020. This includes Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay, and CityWalk. The Universal Orlando Resort hotels have also temporarily suspended operations.
“For now, we must make the health and safety of our guests and team members our top priority and we will continue to take guidance from health agencies and government officials,” a statement from Universal reads.
These extended closures also follow an announcement from runDisney that the 2020 Star Wars Rival Run Weekend that was scheduled for April 16-19, 2020 at Walt Disney World has been cancelled out of an abundance of caution. RunDisney indicated that because the races use local medical professionals and first responders to monitor and treat runners, this will free up those resources for more critical needs during this time.
All participants for the Star Wars Rival Run Weekend who purchased their registrations will receive a refund for their race registration, commemorative merchandise, ChEAR Squad, and processing fee. RunDisney reports that on-sale dates for future races will be adjusted, and more information will be shared soon. (The Disneyland Paris Princess Run scheduled for May 8-10, 2020 has also been cancelled.)
These closure extensions come after Walt Disney World closed all resorts in Florida at the end of last week. In addition to WDW hotels, two standalone Disney Vacation Club properties, Vero Beach Resort and Hilton Head Island Resort, are also now closed.
Walt Disney World has also Disney Springs and virtually all other facilities around Florida. To our knowledge, the only venues that remain open are Disney’s Palm, Magnolia, Oak Trail, and Lake Buena Vista Golf Courses plus FootGolf. (So, you can still get your “Disney fix” if you like to golf!)
This news also comes after it was revealed that all construction has stopped at Walt Disney World. With these projects halted, plus all hotels and Disney Springs shuttered, it’s no surprise that the parks are remaining closed for a longer period.
Shanghai Disneyland is in the process of resuming operations, but the parks have not yet reopened.
We should reiterate that the extension of the closure does not establish a reopening date. Do not expect the parks to magically reopen on April 19, 2020. That’s simply the earliest foreseeable date that the parks and resorts could reopen in light of this news. We’re anticipating the closer lasting longer than that, and hesitate to estimate as to an end date. Cases in the United States (and Florida in particular) have yet to peak.
Walt Disney World and Disneyland are both taking an incremental approach to these closures, announcing something near-term with the intention of reevaluating the situation in a couple of weeks and making a determination about reopening then.
That approach is easier to manage, as it prevents a slew of cancellations all at once that could have the potential to overwhelm Disney’s websites and call centers. It also projects optimism to the public, who may be otherwise wary about planning trips for later this year.
In short, there are a number of reasons to be conservative with Disney issuing closure dates right now, even though internally, there’s a sense that the actual closure duration will extend what’s publicly been confirmed. As a corollary to this, do not expect call center Cast Members to have any insight as to when the parks will actually reopen. They are not privy to any insider information. They receive these updates at the same time they’re released to the general public.
Ultimately, that’s all we have right now. I really wish we had a credible reopening date we could point towards as being definitive, or even a timeframe that’s likely. As we’ve said before, this is an incredibly fluid and dynamic situation, with things evolving by the hour, and the extent of closures and shutdowns continuing to worsen rather than improve.
We remain hopeful that Walt Disney World will reopen by sometime in May 2020, but we’re no longer optimistic of that actually happening. Again, we would much rather that Disney take the cautious and conservative approach, resuming operations once this is under control. Prioritizing health and safety should be the goal here, especially given the nature of theme parks.
Are you surprised that Walt Disney World is extending its closure? Will this impact your upcoming spring or summer vacation plans? Did you cancel your WDW trip prior to this announcement, or were you in ‘wait and see’ mode? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!