Disney Parks and Resorts Update: May 4th
For weeks now, Disney Vacation Club members have wondered when the parks would reopen to the public. Over the past few days, we’ve finally received a glimpse into the next steps in a post-pandemic society.
Both Disney and California have released updated guidelines that detail how businesses should progress. I’ll describe everything you need to know in the latest Disney parks and resorts update.
The Current State of Florida
On April 1st, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared that residents should stay at home. Only essential employees had the legal right to continue working outside the house during this timeframe.
The published end date for this directive is May 4th. Now that the day has arrived, Floridians and outside observers alike have wondered what will happen next. The other day, DeSantis held a press conference to update residents about the state’s reopening.
Before we discuss specifics, an important caveat is that these changes don’t apply to Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm County. These three areas remain as hotspots for the coronavirus pandemic. So, it’s unsafe to undo the public health guidelines right now.
However, we’re primarily focused on Disney theme parks here. And the news is unexpectedly positive, all things considered.
DeSantis liaised with the White House and the Re-Open Florida Task Force before announcing the updated state policy. As of May 4th, the stay at home order is no longer valid. In its place, the state enters Phase One.
About Florida Phase One
What’s involved in Phase One? Well, it’s not as open-ended as Florida’s neighbor to the north, Georgia. Overall, it does provide Floridians with the opportunity to spend more time outside, though.
During Phase One, visits to retirement homes are still disallowed. Also, school systems will continue to teach virtually rather than requiring students to return to physical classrooms.
Many businesses will operate under looser guidelines now. Many state parks will return to operation, while restaurants and retail stores may reopen for indoor service. The caveat is that Florida will enact seating capacities of 25 percent at these locations.
Small business owners have expressed displeasure with this decision, as reopening with limited capacity could mean working at or below operating cost. I mention this for non-political reasons.
Theoretically, several Disney Springs restaurants and shops could reopen. If they don’t, it’s because Disney officials worry about the 25 percent capacity. Disney’s businesses may wait until the law allows more customers. And that date may come sooner than you think.
About Florida Phase Two
Barely 24 hours after DeSantis pitched his changes, the task force published its proposals for Phase Two and beyond. You can read the PDF document in its entirety, but I’ll cover the pertinent details.
The state of Florida will enter Phase Two if the state’s confirmed coronavirus cases decline, the number of available tests increases, and hospitals remain manageable. Presuming that all three positives occur—and we all want that for human reasons inasmuch as Disney ones—theme parks could theoretically return during Phase Two.
According to the guidelines, the state’s theme parks may “consider reopening with capacity limits, strict social distancing and proper measures to clean and disinfect.”
So, that’s the crux of the situation right there. Presuming that Disney officials believe that it’s safe, the governor of Florida and the task force advising him both agree that the parks could return soon.
Obviously, the reopening of Walt Disney World would require some dramatic changes, ones already underway at Shanghai Disneyland. Bob Iger has previously mentioned a couple of them, specifically temperature checks and the need for social distancing.
Of course, Disney’s advisory team may prefer to wait until Phase Three. During this stage of reopening Florida, most businesses would operate at full capacity. However, theme parks and sports stadiums would operate under some state guidelines involving public safety.
The other two pertinent details here are that restaurants and stores could work at 75 percent capacity. Also, bars will return during Phase Two. At that point, the return of Disney Springs seems extremely likely. And that’s the other piece of good news here. DeSantis indicated that the switch from Phase One to Phase Two is possibly weeks, not months away from transpiring.
About California Phase One
I’ve previously discussed the divide in coronavirus maintenance between California and Florida officials. The schism is readily apparent when we evaluate state reopening strategies.
California governor Gavin Newsom stated his phased reopening plans several days before DeSantis did. Newsom’s are considerably more focused on protecting public safety, even at the potential expense of business interests.
The state is currently in what Newsom calls Stage 1. During this phase, citizens should remain in their homes, while medical officials continue to flatten the curve.
About Future California Phases
When the state enters Stage 2, some businesses will return to operation. The priority is to bring back the industries that are inefficient for teleworking. Lower risk workplaces are also part of this stage.
The idea during Stage 2 is to give the economy a boost while maintaining public safety. Some non-essential businesses will welcome the loosened restrictions. Still, Disney operations are unlikely during this stage, and I’m even including Downtown Disney stores and restaurants in that statement.
The best hope for these places occurs during Stage 3. Newsom’s tweet provides the bullet points for this stage:
STAGE 3: Higher Risk Workplaces
Gradually re-opening some higher risk environments with adaptations and limits on size of gatherings.
This will include:
-Personal care (hair salons, nail salons, gyms)
-Sports without live audiences
-In-person religious services
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) April 28, 2020
California will reduce its restrictions enough that live sports events are possible. Even so, they’ll function under explicit guidelines. The attention-grabbing one is that stadiums won’t include live audiences.
Newsom indicates that Stage 3 is months, not weeks away. And the belief is that Disneyland couldn’t return during this stage. Yes, that could change if California flattens its curve enough.
For now, the best guess is that Disneyland will return during Stage 4, though. Newsom tweets the details about it here:
STAGE 4: End of Stay-At-Home Order
Re-opening the highest risk parts of our economy — once therapeutics have been developed.
This will include mass gatherings such as:
– Convention Centers
– Live audience sports
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) April 28, 2020
During this stage, the stay-at-home order will end. Also, public sporting events and large concerts will return.
While Newsom doesn’t list theme parks during any specific stage, this final one certainly seems most applicable. Meanwhile, Downtown Disney operations could probably return during Stage 3.
So, that’s what we know about the status of Disneyland and Walt Disney World right now. As strange as the idea sounds, the current divide in opinion hints at a future where the Orlando park returns well in advance of the Anaheim one.
Other Park News
We have three other noteworthy items coming from Walt Disney World/Orange County this week.
The most important one is that the mayor, Jerry Demings, agrees with the assessment that Disney possesses autonomy over its reopening. However, he pointed out something important.
The return of Walt Disney World comes with a wrinkle. Disney furloughed tens of thousands of employees, many of which are still tangled up in unemployment filing fiascos. The bureaucratic red tape involving both the company and its employees may lead to delays during the rehiring process.
Finally, Demings indicates an expectation that falls in line with what I’ve said here. He believes that Walt Disney World is likely to reopen in phases.
In such an eventuality, the theme parks are almost certainly the last places to return. Restaurants, shops, and official resorts would come back first.
While we’re awaiting positive news about Walt Disney World, I again recommend the video series that DVC Resale Market is publishing on Facebook. These updates will keep you in the loop about the DVC marketplace during the pandemic.
Here are two recent clips that are well worth your time:
Okay, that’s all the news for this week. Please continue to stay safe and smart, everyone!