Disney Parks and Resorts Update: April 4th
Okay, we’ve gained newfound clarity about Walt Disney World. The entire state of Florida will operate under a stay-at-home executive order during the full month of April. Let’s talk about what it means, along with some other Disney Vacation Club-related resort updates.
About the Executive Order
On April 1st, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis finally ceded to requests from several city and county governments in the state. He announced a stay-at-home executive order that will last from April 3rd through April 30th. The Orlando Sentinel has posted the full 34-page document here.
The summary is that people should stay at home as much as possible. The wording emphasizes that people with auto-immune deficiencies and the elderly “”shall stay at home and take all measures to limit the risk for exposure to COVID-19.” It’s a common-sense thing where people shouldn’t go outside and interact with one another unless absolutely necessary.
This aspect has caused a great deal of confusion. The wording of the stay-at-home mandate forced several local government officials to start an email chain on the subject. The primary takeaway from the whole thing is that everyone should work/stay home unless they’re participants in an essential business.
Unfortunately, the definition of essential has proven difficult to pin down for some. The Sun-Sentinel helpfully published a list of businesses that provide essential services in Florida. The article underscores potential areas of confusion, pointing out a specific instance where someone is moving from one county to another. In the first area, movers are essential, but they weren’t in the county for the new home, at least initially.
In other words, Florida now operates under a mandate. However, enforcing said mandate comes with its own share of challenges. You know all of those “Florida man” memes? The directive applies to them, but enforcing laws on stubbornly nihilist people isn’t easy. To wit, police had to arrest a Florida woman who went on Facebook Live and claimed that she had Coronavirus. She then proceeded to walk around her city.
The Impact on Disney
DeSantis can revoke this declaration whenever he wants. So, the April 30th date isn’t set in stone. Alas, the governor’s refusal to follow California Governor Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home declaration has come with dramatic consequences. California shut down on March 19th. By waiting almost two weeks, DeSantis has made Florida more susceptible to infection.
The state of Florida confirmed 432 cases at that point. At the end of April 3rd, the total had reached 10,268. California claims nearly double the population of Florida (39.6 million vs. 21.3 million. Somehow, the Golden State has experienced a similar number of cases, 10,701, when its totals should be double, also.
So, the conclusion we can safely draw here is that Disney’s unlikely to open in April. I had both hoped and expected that sanity would prevail as people stayed inside. That hasn’t happened enough, which means that the Disney park shutdowns will remain in place indefinitely.
Disney executives have had to make some tough choices in the wake of the near-worst-case scenario unfolding. Starting on April 19th, the company will furlough all Walt Disney World cast members who aren’t currently able to do their jobs.
The park employees embody the definition of essential to Disney fans and executives most of the time. With the parks closed, Disney’s management team has accepted that the payroll expense isn’t justifiable right now. According to the Orange County Register, a similar decision is in the offing at Disneyland. And I hated typing that because cast members are the absolute best.
Managing the Crisis
Orlando Weekly added a fascinating tidbit about theme parks dealing with Coronavirus. According to the site, the Central Florida theme parks have worked under a gentleman’s agreement to keep one another in the loop about situations like hurricanes and the like.
So, Disney and SeaWorld officials expressed surprise when Universal Studios announced that it would remain closed until April 19th. The company did this without conferring with its industry cohorts first. Since then, Universal officials in Orlando have privately relayed that this announcement didn’t come from any of them. A company executive in a different part of the corporate structure went rogue, leading to some momentary irritation among the three parties.
As Orlando Weekly points out, the three theme parks are generally quite good at acting in unison. The author reminds everyone that all parties introduced metal detectors on the same morning in 2015. It’s a demonstration of the standard coordination in place.
Based on this information, I expect all three parks to re-open around the same time after conferring with one another. Also, barring something unforeseen, that won’t happen until Florida’s stay-at-home measure ends at the end of April. Right now, it looks like Walt Disney World will remain closed for six weeks at a minimum.
Thankfully, based on what I discussed the other day, Disney’s relatively confident that its parks will return by June 1st, though. Similarly, Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World aren’t accepting hotel or restaurant reservations until June 1st. So, we’re about to have a Disney-free April and possibly even May, I’m afraid.
On the plus side, Disney has modified its annual passholder rules. People on the monthly automatic payment plan will not get billed until the parks re-open. The downside is that anyone who accepts this option won’t receive the pass date extension that everyone else gets. So, you have a choice of getting more time added back to your pass expiration date or stopping payments.
Disney has also provided a nice bit of customer service for passholders who have paid in advance. We can ask for a refund of any unused days while the parks aren’t open. If you have specific questions, I strongly encourage you to contact the Passholder VIP phone number at 407-939-7277. Please understand that the phone lines are quite busy right now, though.
Finally, DVC Resale Market has posted another update video that details the current DVC environment. I highly recommend that you take 10 minutes to watch it. I’m confident you’ll feel better and more informed after seeing it.