Several hundred people queued in the Florida heat ahead of the park's reopening - some sporting Mickey ears but all wearing masks, part of the park's new guidelines requiring them for both guests and employees. "By visiting Walt Disney World Resort you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19", the park said on its website.
All of Disney's Orlando parks closed in mid-March in an effort to stop the spread of the virus. Florida reportedly recorded their highest COVID case count since July 4, with nearly 500 newer hospitalizations happening.
Almost four months after it closed over coronavirus concerns, Disney World is once again inviting guests to experience its Florida theme parks.
Inside the parks, social distancing is being encouraged and enforced with markers on the ground. Reservations are required as well as masks and temperature checks prior to entering the park.
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Since the park is at lower capacity, there was only a five minute wait for the popular Buzz Lightyear ride - normally it's about 90 minutes, Watkins said. On social media, many criticized the park's reopening as Florida experiences an accelerated number of cases.
That also includes some 750 Disney performers who are not included in the phased reopening after Disney and the Actors' Equity labor union representing the performers did not come to an agreement on COVID-19 testing. Disney declined, saying tests would reportedly provide a "false sense of security" and said it would instead emphasize distancing, masks and sanitation. Fireworks shows and parades have been suspended to prevent drawing too many people together.
There have been calls from some citizens and workers at Disney World for a postponement of its reopening. Nationally, the United States has broken global records by registering about 60,000 new cases a day for the last four days in a row, according to a Reuters tally.