We’re back…again…with a Walt Disney World closure & reopening news roundup. This includes a variety of topics: WDW’s new liability warning, Vice President Mike Pence’s upcoming meeting with Orlando travel & tourism leaders, and answers to frequently asked questions about the temporary rules at Disney Springs.
Before we get to all of that, how about starting with some good news? Over the weekend, Disneyland Resort President Rebecca Campbell shared this video of the Air Force Thunderbirds flyover to salute frontline workers. It’s cool to see, but sort of surreal with the parks devoid of guests.
Walt Disney World has previously coordinated flyovers by the United States Navy Blue Angels of both Magic Kingdom and Epcot. For Armed Services Day, the Disney Parks Blog offered a look back at past flyovers that have paid tribute to active-duty and reserve service members, plus veterans.
In pertinent part, here’s what the updated travel advisory on DisneyWorld.com states:
We have taken enhanced health and safety measures–for you, our other Guests, and Cast Members. You must follow all posted instructions while visiting Walt Disney World Resort.
An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present. COVID-19 is an extremely contagious disease that can lead to severe illness and death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, senior citizens and guests with underlying medical conditions are especially vulnerable.
By visiting Walt Disney World Resort, you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19.
Let’s keep each other healthy and safe.
Since reopening, Universal Orlando’s CityWalk has placed sandwich boards with a similar warning. Such blanket disclaimers are not even remotely unprecedented or uncommon–you’ll find them on everything from the fine print on ticket media to California’s infamous Proposition 65 warnings, which are so ubiquitous that Disneyland regulars probably don’t even notice them anymore.
Expect to see signs similar to this up before health & security screening areas at Disney Springs, plus near transportation, turnstiles, resorts, and more once Walt Disney World gets back up and running. The good news is that Walt Disney World has plenty of sandwich boards they can repurpose from the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance boarding pass dash!
There are significant limits on the effectiveness of disclaimers, but minimally, they put guests on notice and offer a sobering reminder that Walt Disney World exists in the real world, and doesn’t have magical bubble of safety around it. For now, it’s a good reminder, even if these signs eventually fade into the background for most visitors.
Several states, including Florida, are actively working on legislative initiatives to offer varying degrees of immunity protections related to the crisis. Among other things, this means that state law could potentially dictate that workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy for employees contending that their exposure arose out of and during the course of employment.
Another concern that might be addressed by such legislation is the possible guests could file lawsuits predicated upon negligence. While theoretically possible right now, there would be a nearly insurmountable uphill battle in establishing causation and escaping basic defenses such as assumption of risk or contributory negligence. Even in the absence of (expected) federal and/or state immunity laws, it’s difficult to envision guests prevailing in such litigation given the safety and mitigation measures already announced by Walt Disney World.
Along these same lines, Disney Springs continues to update its frequently asked questions about visiting, as well as its “Know Before You Go” page, which also now includes a slightly modified version of the above COVID-19 Warning. This includes a few questions about face masks (by far the most “popular” and controversial topic pertaining to all of this):
Will masks or face coverings be required to enter Disney Springs?
Yes, the use of appropriate face coverings is required for Guests ages 3 and up throughout your visit to Disney Springs. Cast Members and Operating Participant employees will also need to wear face coverings while at Disney Springs.
What if I forgot my mask? Will masks be provided to Guests or will they be available for purchase?
The use of appropriate face coverings by both Cast Members and Guests is required for all members of your party throughout your visit to Disney Springs. Disposable masks may be available; however, Guests without masks will not be allowed entry to Disney Springs.
What if I don’t want to wear a mask?
Given this unprecedented situation, we appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding as we navigate these challenges as responsibly as we can. With our robust measures in place, we believe a key factor in our success in reopening Disney Springs will be our Guests’ acceptance and adherence to our new protocols. Guests without masks will not be allowed entry to Disney Springs.
There are also a few questions about social distancing and the capacity of Disney Springs:
How are you limiting capacity at Disney Springs?
Disney Springs will open with the implementation of Guest capacity measures to limit density and comply with state and federal guidelines. Upon opening, this includes limiting our parking locations for arriving Guests to the Orange and Lime Parking Garages.
How will restaurants handle reservations when they reach capacity?
Unfortunately, due to capacity restrictions at Disney Springs, once the parking garages are full, Guests will no longer be able to park and visit Disney Springs. This includes Guests who have a booked dining reservation. If a Guest is unable to make their reservation because Disney Springs is closed due to capacity, the dining guarantee charge will be waived.
How will Disney Springs control capacity for the stores and restaurants that will be open?
One-way and other directional signage have been installed to assist Guests to responsibly move throughout the property. Additionally, ground markings have also been installed to allow for proper physical distancing when queuing is needed at a location. We are also adding a new team to engage with Guests and promote physical distancing guidelines in common areas and queues.
That new team has our sympathies as enforcing these rules will give new meaning to the term “thankless job.” To those of you who do choose to visit Disney Springs, please be kind to Cast Members. This should go without saying and is always the case, but it’s especially true now.
Front of line Cast Members with whom you interact have literally zero say over Walt Disney World’s policies they’re tasked with enforcing, and you’re not going to change anything by being rude to them. These people have already gone through a lot during this ordeal, and some probably have mixed feelings about being back at work. Suffice to say, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar…
Finally, Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to visit Orlando on Wednesday to make a number of stops. The initial aim of the visit was to stop at a nursing home to deliver personal protective equipment as part of a White House initiative to deliver PPE to 15,000 nursing homes nationwide.
According to the White House, Vice President Pence will then meet with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to discuss Florida’s phased reopening with the governor. As we previously reported, DeSantis announced Florida Is Entering “Full Phase 1” to reopen its economy, which notably increases restaurant seating to 50% capacity on Monday.
Most notably for Walt Disney World fans, Vice President Pence will join in a roundtable with hospitality and tourism industry leaders to talk about reopening. Florida’s “Full Phase 1” also entails theme park operators submitting their safety plans and a target date for reopening to the state for review.
It’s unclear who from Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando will participate in this roundtable. On the state level, Josh D’Amaro, President of Walt Disney World Resort, is part of the Re-Open Florida Task Force Executive Committee headed by Governor Ron DeSantis. (Note that we usually cover the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force meeting, which counts Walt Disney World SVP Thomas Mazloum as a member. There are several task force groups and subcommittees–it can get confusing.)
We’re hopeful that one thing to come out of the most recent developments and this week’s roundtables is a target reopening date for Walt Disney World. Whether that’s one month from now or six, some clarity would be nice so people–both guests and Cast Members–have a better idea what the future holds. It’s absolutely understandable that this is an evolving and dynamic situation, and Walt Disney World has made a range of contingency plans. However, the official communications from Disney have left something to be desired, with guest-facing and Cast-facing policies and ‘announcements’ (or lack thereof) differing from, and sometimes contradicting, what leadership has stated in interviews or task force meetings.
What do you think of this news? Thoughts on the liability warning? Think a reopening date will come of this week’s meetings with theme park leaders in Florida? We welcome a variety of viewpoints here, and don’t delete anything on opinion alone. However, we will not tolerate insults, arguing, or politically-charged comments. Don’t ruin a 95% fine comment with an unnecessary cheap shot—that 5% will get it deleted. Additionally, please do not incessantly harp on the same point across multiple comments. Respectfully share your opinion and move along.