SeaWorld and Walt Disney World approved by Orange County to reopen, dates await approval by DeSantis

click to enlarge SeaWorld and Walt Disney World approved by Orange County to reopen, dates await approval by DeSantis
Photo via Disney/Facebook

Walt Disney World presented reopening plans to an Orange County task force on Wednesday morning, saying it hopes to welcome back tourists and residents with a phased reopening. SeaWorld presented a reopening plan alongside WDW on an earlier schedule. Both companies' plans were approved by the county.

If given approval next by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom will open on July 11 and Epcot and Hollywood Studios will open on July 15. SeaWorld's plan is to welcome back tourists and residents on June 11, after a June 10 employee appreciation night. Here are some details of each company's plans.

Walt Disney World

After shutting down on March, Florida's hottest tourist destination has implemented new safety guidelines to ensure all guests and cast members stay safe while enjoying "the Happiest Place on Earth."

Senior Vice President Operations at Walt Disney World Jim McPhee presented to the task force WDW's plan to reopen first with soft openings for select audiences. Several days prior to the July opening, soft opening preview dates will also take place for cast members and corporate partners. McPhee said that this will allow them to learn and adjust certain things to maintain everyone's safety

"We believe our reopening proposal for our property reflects a very thoughtful, methodical and phased approach and we've incorporated all the reopening protocols throughout our guest experience and our cast experience," McPhee said.

Disney has implemented quite a few new guidelines to make sure guests and cast members remain safe and healthy, such as requiring guests to make a reservation to attend the park prior to attendance. This system will allow Disney to manage the parks' attendance and minimize overcrowding.

Face coverings will be required for all cast members and guests and physical barrier will be introduced in places were social distancing may be difficult to maintain. All guests will undergo temperature checks on site, while cast members will undergo temperature and health checks both at home and on site. In order to reduce contact, Disney will expand mobile food ordering and encourage a cashless environment.

Disney will be temporarily suspending high touch areas such as playgrounds, water effects, meet-and-greets and parades in order to prevents crowds.

A social distancing squad, which McPhee claimed has been successful at Disney Springs, will be added to each park. The squad will remind guests of social distancing and other safety measures.

SeaWorld Orlando

Although SeaWorld is opening much earlier than Disney, precautions to ensure everyone's safety have been implemented.

All guests and employees will be required to wear face masks, and if a guest does not have mask, a staff member will provide one. Physical distancing will also be "very clearly outlined" through markers and signs throughout the park in the various queue lines. Plexiglass will be added to certain areas where distancing is difficult to maintain, such as at the entrance of the park where tickets will be scanned through the plexiglass and finger scanning will be suspended. Employees and guests will also undergo temperature screening prior to entering the park.

Cleaning and sanitation will also increase, especially in high-contact areas, but Swanson clarified that SeaWorld has always taken sanitation seriously.

"Certainly as long time operators, our parks have always been clean, and we’ll just be that more rigorous about the cleaning process,” Swanson said.

The animal exhibits and interactions will be marked to enforce physical distancing and certain tours will only be opened to one party at a time. Some parades and meet-and-greets will also remain closed. 

Swanson said, "According to the CDC, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can spread to people through the water used in pools." SeaWorld's water parks will also reopen, but rafts will be limited to a single party and lounge chairs will be spaced farther apart. Increased cleaning and sanitization will be implemented nevertheless, and guest capacity in pools and rivers will also be limited to ensure distancing.

Swanson added that they will "encourage our employees who aren’t feeling well or feeling sick to obviously not come to work or if they start to not feel well at work, we will ask them to go home." Additionally, employees will continue to receive COVID-19 training so that they know the new protocols.

Please follow CDC guidelines and Orange County advisories to stay safe, and please support this free publication. Our small but mighty team is working tirelessly to bring you news on how coronavirus is affecting Central Florida. Please consider making a one-time or monthly donation. Every little bit helps. (LF)


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