Dis­ney World re­opens as virus surges

Enterprise-Record (Chico) - - NEWS - By Ta­mara Lush and Mike Sch­nei­der

OR­LANDO, FLA. » “The Most Mag­i­cal Place on Earth” has re­opened af­ter nearly four months with new rules in place to help pre­vent the spread of COVID-19.

Walt Dis­ney World’s Magic King­dom and An­i­mal King­dom are re­open­ing Satur­day, while Ep­cot and Dis­ney’s Hol­ly­wood Stu­dios will fol­low four days later.

“It’s the chance to come back and be in the magic,” said Diane Watkins, a preschool teacher from He­lena, Alabama, who vis­its the park about eight times a year. “Hot or not, mask or not, we’re just happy to be here. I feel like ev­ery­body here is in the same frame of mind. Ev­ery­body is just so ex­cited to be here.”

Watkins said that when she and her 16-year-old daugh­ter walked into the Magic King­dom on Satur­day morn­ing, then saw all the cast mem­bers lined up and clap­ping on Main Street, she cried.

“It was very emo­tional,” she said.

The re­open­ing comes as a huge surge of Florid­i­ans have tested pos­i­tive for the new coro­n­avirus in re­cent weeks. On Satur­day, there were about 10,000 new cases re­ported, ac­cord­ing to state sta­tis­tics. Many cities and coun­ties around the state have re­cently re­in­stated restric­tions that had been lifted in May, when cases seemed to drop.

All of Dis­ney’s Or­lando parks closed in mid-March in an ef­fort to stop the virus’s spread. Uni­ver­sal Or­lando and SeaWorld Or­lando closed around the same time but re­opened sev­eral weeks ago af­ter in­sti­tut­ing sim­i­lar rules to pro­tect em­ploy­ees and cus­tomers from the virus.

Lori Lovell of Evansville, In­di­ana, strolled around Fron­tier­land on Satur­day morn­ing with friends.

“I have missed com­ing here. It just feels re­ally good to be back. This is where I’ve made so many mem­o­ries. It’s kind of our sec­ond home. Not be­ing able to come here was hard.”

Dis­ney’s new rules in­clude manda­tory masks and so­cial dis­tanc­ing. Vis­i­tors will need reser­va­tions to en­ter a park, and they won’t be al­lowed to hop be­tween parks. Both vis­i­tors and em­ploy­ees will re­ceive tem­per­a­ture checks when they en­ter. Fire­works shows and pa­rades have been sus­pended to pre­vent draw­ing too many peo­ple to­gether.

Park-go­ers say that nearly ev­ery­one in sight wore masks on Satur­day morn­ing. Ca­pac­ity is nowhere near where it is un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances, they said.

“I’ve been here on spring breaks where you can barely walk around. The walk­ways are very wide open,” said Lovell.

There were lots of hand san­i­tizer sta­tions around, and peo­ple were re­spect­ing the phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing cues and guide­lines. Since the park is at lower ca­pac­ity, there was only a fiveminute wait for the pop­u­lar Buzz Lightyear ride — nor­mally it’s about 90 min­utes, Watkins said.

Some at­trac­tions and din­ing ar­eas aren’t yet open. An­other change: vis­i­tors can’t hug and greet the cos­tumed Dis­ney char­ac­ters. In­stead, the char­ac­ters are in “cav­al­cades,” or mo­tor­cades, as they make their way through the park.

JOHN RAOUX — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

On June 16, guests re­quired to wear masks stroll through the Dis­ney Springs shop­ping, din­ing and en­ter­tain­ment com­plex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

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