Walt Disney World’s closure is effectively extended beyond its current March 31, 2020 end date due to an Orange County stay at home order that will begin Thursday night. It covers 1.3 million residents and all 13 municipalities in the county, which is also home to most of WDW.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer (or “the voice from the MCO People Mover,” as you might know him) issued the order last night for a period of at least two weeks. Their stated goal is to flatten the curve so that local medical facilities (already overburdened thanks to the area’s population explosion) aren’t overwhelmed as more cases emerge.
The portions of Walt Disney World that are not in Orange County are part of Osceola County, and an executive policy group there has likewise passed a stay home order by 6-2 vote. Officials have tentatively scheduled a briefing for 4 p.m. today…
Just one week ago, there was only one confirmed case in Orange County–today there are 52. There are now 1,682 cases in Florida, over 55,200 cases nationwide and over 438,700 globally as of Wednesday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University Resource Center. There have also been 22 deaths in the state of Florida.
Orange County’s stay at home order will take effect at 11 p.m. on Thursday and only allows people to leave their residences for essential business, including trips to work, grocery stores, the pharmacy, and to pick up take-out food.
Businesses including hardware stores, gas stations, laundromats, liquor stores, construction sites, and repair shops are allowed to remain operational. People are also allowed to exercise outdoors if they practice proper social or physical distancing.
At roughly the same time that Orange County issued its stay at home order, Universal Orlando Resort quickly announced that their closure is extended through April 19, 2020. This includes both theme parks, 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 Orlando reads.
The Orange County stay-at-home order means non-essential businesses including but not limited to movie theaters, shopping malls, golf courses, and other recreation will close.
As you can probably imagine, amusement and theme parks fall into the non-essential category.
For Walt Disney World, this doesn’t have much of an immediate impact. Almost everything–resorts, theme parks, miniature golf, water parks, and Disney Springs–is already closed.
The lone exception to this is Disney’s Palm, Magnolia, Oak Trail, and Lake Buena Vista Golf Courses, all of which remain open along with FootGolf. Even following the stay at home order, we’ve been notified that these golf courses will remain operational through Thursday.
The goal is to stop the spread as multiple first responders including firefighters and medical professionals have been infected, as have five TSA officers at Orlando International Airport. One Orange County deputy, who traveled overseas, has also tested positive.
The order will be in effect for two weeks, but Mayors Demings and Dyer said it could be extended then. The two mayors stated that it’s urgent that we make sacrifices for the “next few weeks” would ensure positive results to allow increased testing and get in front of any kind of surge that negatively impacts the ability of our hospitals to be able to care for all of our community.
The stay at home order comes as Florida gets more serious and aggressive in its response. Governor Ron DeSantis has resisted calls from local officials for a statewide stay-at-home order, contending that such a move would be a “blunt instrument.”
Governor DeSantis has requested that Floridians ages 65 and older, plus those with medical conditions self-isolate for 14 days, following a recommendation from the state’s surgeon general.
The governor also issued an executive order mandating a 14-day self-quarantine or isolation period for travelers coming to Florida from airports in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. It’s unclear whether Florida could constitutionally enforce such an order–but it’s likely a symbolic move, anyway.
For its part, Orange County has increased its testing efforts with a free drive-thru site set up at the Orange County Convention Center. The location will administer up to 250 tests per day to those who meet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria–meaning symptomatic people ages 65 and older or first responders and health-care workers.
Orange County’s order comes as the federal government is signaling that it wants to reopen the country by Easter in an attempt to revive the economy, which has been hobbled by the public health crisis. This desire is at odds with local and state governments, several of which have pushed for stricter social distancing policies.
With states like California, New York, and Illinois–among many others–effectively shutdown until after Easter, it seems highly unlikely that Walt Disney World will reopen by that date. Disney is dependent upon tourists from the Midwest and East Coast states, and governors in those locations have indicated that they do not expect peaks for several more weeks.
This all means that Walt Disney World will be closed until at least April 9, 2020. (We’d again caution that this does not mean that Walt Disney World will return to business as usual on April 10. Anticipate another extension.) It’s a bit surprising that the company hasn’t released an official statement extending the closure. We’ve been expecting one for the last couple of days now–perhaps we’ll finally get one today after 4 pm?
Are you surprised by the extension of Walt Disney World’s closure? Do you think Disney will reopen the parks as soon as it’s allowed to do so by the federal, state, and local governments–or will Disney hold off out of “an abundance of caution”? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments! (All politically-charged comments and any replies thereto will be deleted.)