Back in April, Walt Disney World, otherwise known as the best Disney theme park in the United States, and also the largest single-site employer in the country, furloughed 43,000 union employees as a result of the park’s closure due to covid-19.
At the time, Walt Disney World reported that everyone who was furloughed would be welcomed back to work following the reopening of the park, retaining their job titles and full wages, although it was unclear when a return to work would be possible.
Well, for some employees, it looks like a return to work might be happening sooner, rather than later, as Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said there could be a return to theme parks as early as June. “They should identify the date certain that they believe that they can resume safe operations,” said mask-repellent Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, “They have to provide how they’re going to do it, how they’re going to accommodate the guests, how they’re going to protect the staff…”
Should Walt Disney World, and Universal Studios, follow the recommendations set forth by the Orange County Economic Task Force for park reopening, it would mean that during Phase 1, parks would operate at 50% capacity, bumping up to 75% capacity in Phase 2. Employees would all be temperature checked before starting work and wear masks for the duration of their shifts. Outside of the temperature checks, this might not change much for the cast members running around dressed up like Mickey Mouse et al., although whether or not guests will be able to come within six feet of them for a picture remains to be seen.
Last week, Disneyland Shanghai reopened for business, and videos began surfacing of some of the measures in place to ensure social distancing in the park. Squares were taped off on the ground in front of performance spots, marking where people are meant to stand to accommodate a safe social distance. Some people (rightfully) questioned whether or not those measures would work in the U.S. parks considering our less-than-ideal respect for the rules. Having been elbowed by many an overeager mother in my youth, attempting to jostle their way to the front of a queue so their sticky-fingered kid could have the best seat for the parade, I’m inclined to doubt tape on the ground would do much to enforce anything. (And for what it’s worth, I was greasy, not sticky, at Disney World as a kid, because I preferred the bloated sensation of a sodium-packed turkey leg over the sugar rush of a Dole Whip.)
To be honest, if you’re set on heading to a theme park in the midst of a pandemic, or even outside of one, 50% capacity seems like the ideal way to it. Half the number of people means half the lines and half the amount of sticky, greasy kids. Of course, staying home would still probably be your best bet when it comes to safety, as I don’t think there’s a Fastpass that exists that would help you outrun a virus. However, with Disney Springs and Universal Orlando Citywalk already reopened, and the adjacent parks seemingly not far behind, it’s at least some consolation that there are precautionary measures in place. Right?