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Disney World in Orlando hopes for July 11 reopening; SeaWorld targets June 11

Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, the world's most-visited theme park with almost 21 million visitors a year. John Raoux / AP

By John Haughey | The Center Square

    Walt Disney World plans to reopen its Orlando gates July 11, but even in the Magic Kingdom, the specter of COVID-19 will require a range of safety measures and protocols.

Walt Disney Company and SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment presented their proposed reopening plans Wednesday to the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force, the first in step in receiving the necessary approvals for the theme parks to reopen.

If approved by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Disney’s Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom would reopen July 11, and its Epcot and Hollywood Studios on July 15.

SeaWorld has proposed reopening its three Orlando parks, including Discovery Cove and Aquatica, on June 11.

Universal Orlando presented its plan to reopen last week, with an employee only opening Monday, entry for invited guests Wednesday and a full opening to the public June 5. That plan has been approved by the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force and awaits the governor’s endorsement.

Under its plan, Universal Orlando guests will be required to wear masks, with disposable masks provided for those who do not bring their own. Temperature checks will be required before entry, and guests with a temperature higher than 100.4 degrees will be taken to a cooling area and retested or sent home.

Legoland Florida is the only Florida theme park that has received the green light from DeSantis to reopen.

Legoland, in Winter Haven between Orlando and Lakeland, will open Monday after receiving approval from the governor’s office. That came after the governor did not approve an initial plan.

Legoland will require masks for all employees and will offer masks for all guests, with more than 200 sanitization stations set up at the park. There will be no character greetings, and park capacity will be capped at 50 percent – no more than about 6,000 guests daily.

Disney Senior Vice President of Operations and COO Jim MacPhee told the task force the parks plan highly restricted “soft openings” before July 11 and would open with limited capacity. He did not say what restrictions it would impose or the number of guests allowed in the parks at one time.

Disney later elaborated in a statement that capacity will be managed through a system that requires advance reservations for park entry of up to 14 days.

“We are developing a series of ‘know-before-you-go’ communication vehicles,” MacPhee said. “Our objective is to reinforce our health and safety messages to guests before they arrive on our property so they are aware and prepared for the new environment.”

Among measures Disney World will initiate within its parks are social distancing squads, which have proven popular at its Disney Springs entertainment complex, which opened last week.

The squad is “a dedicated team of highly energetic and informative cast members who are committed to engaging and inspiring our guests to follow the appropriate guidelines,” MacPhee said.

SeaWorld CEO Marc Swanson told the task force its parks are planning an employee appreciation event June 10 to test some of its safety protocols before opening to the public the next day.

Disney and SeaWorld will require guests and employees to wear face coverings, and social distancing will be enforced throughout their properties.

Both plans call for guests and employees to also undergo temperature checks before entering the parks.

Fireworks shows, character meet-and-greets and parades at Disney World will be suspended, MacPhee said.

Disney also announced Wednesday its Disney Vacation Club resorts in Vero Beach will reopen to members and guests June 15.

Disney Vacation Club resorts at Walt Disney World, along with Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, will reopen slowly June 22.

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