Whenever Disney World reopens, guests will likely be required to wear masks inside the resort’s theme parks, according to Disney CEO Bob Chapek.
In an interview on CNBC, Chapek declined to provide any timeline on when Disney World may welcome guests again as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. When asked what the hardest aspect will be for reopening the parks, Chapek pointed to the need for guests to don face masks.
“Along with social distancing, one of the things we are likely going to require is masks from both the cast and the guests,” Chapek said. “I think masks for the guest will be something, culturally, is different. In Asia, it’s fairly commonplace, even before COVID, for folks to walk around in public with masks on. That’s not the case in the U.S.”
Orange County’s suggested guidelines for reopening theme parks made no mention of masks for guests, with most of its measures focused on park employees. But Chapek put an emphasis on guest behavior in the interview, saying how guests follow these new park rules will shape how the parks operate.
“We’re going to do our part and we need our guests to do their part too,” he said.
Local regulations vary in areas surrounding Disney World. Osceola County has required people to wear masks or face coverings in public, while Orange County only requires if the service being provided doesn’t allow workers or customers to stay six feet away from each other.
Face masks are rapidly becoming a cultural and political issue defining how people feel about the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this month, a man who was stopped at Miami Beach Publix for not wearing a mask was caught on video saying, “This is a false flag, fake pandemic,” complaining that a mask requirement was a violation of his constitutional and civil rights and comparing it to terrorism.
Shanghai Disneyland reopens with limited crowds
The reason Chapek was on CNBC was to mark the first reopening of a Disney park that had previously been shuttered due to COVID-19.
Shanghai Disneyland reopened Monday after a 106-day closure with a variety of new health precautions that begin before entry. Guests had to buy tickets in advance with a staggered entry time to minimize the number of people waiting outside the gates. Along with mask requirements and a temperature check, social distancing spaces are marked out in queues and empty seats or rows are being left between guests.
Chapek mentioned on Disney’s recent earnings call that the Chinese government is limiting park capacity to 30 percent, but Disney is staying well below that threshold to start and slowly ramping up.
“We’re going to be very disciplined about how we open up,” he said.
Some of the policies in China will be difficult to replicate in the United States. For example, Shanghai guests have to show a government-mandated health QR code on their phone to be allowed inside the park.
No May 11 reopening for Universal CityWalk
Orlando Rising had previously cited an Attractions magazine report that said locations in the Universal CityWalk shopping and dining district would reopen on May 11. No such reopening came to pass.
Universal’s official Twitter account addressed questions about the reopening:
We are developing plans to reopen a portion of Universal CityWalk and will continue to keep the health and safety of our guests and team members our top priority. We look forward to sharing our plans soon.
— Universal Orlando Resort (@UniversalORL) May 11, 2020
Attractions magazine updated its story to say, “Universal Orlando decided not to open any part of CityWalk on May 11, 2020.”
CityWalk’s counterpart at Disney World, Disney Springs, is planning on a phased reopening starting May 20 with some restaurants and shops owned by third-party operators.
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