Both Disneyland Resort and California Adventure parks will be accepting new guests at the end of April, along with a phased reopening of their on-site hotels. While Disney has announced that the parks will have a limited capacity based on California state guidelines, April 30 is definitively a date that’s going to fall within the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — but Disney has a plan.
In a statement, Michael Ramirez, Public Relations Director, Disneyland Resort said: “Because theme park capacity will be significantly limited to comply with governmental requirements and promote physical distancing, the Disneyland Resort will manage attendance through a new theme park reservation system that requires all guests to obtain a reservation for park entry in advance. To enter a park, both a park reservation and valid admission for the same park on the same date are required for guests ages 3 and up. Theme park reservations will be limited and subject to availability and, until further notice, only California residents may visit the parks in line with current state guidelines. More details about this new reservation system will be available soon.”
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Limiting park attendance to people who live in the state sounds like a good plan, but the data indicates otherwise. As of today, over 3.63 million Californians have contracted covid, while over 4 million have been fully vaccinated. California is only averaging about 250,000 vaccinations per day in a state of almost 40 million — and don’t forget many people need two shots to be fully vaccinated. Furthermore, even if 60 million people in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated by the end of April, scientists say the population still won’t have enough inoculated members to achieve herd immunity, making any large group gathering a bad idea.
Walt Disney World re-opened back in July 2020, right when there was a spike in cases. The capacity is limited, mask-wearing is required to enter and stay inside, and “Special Distancing Squads” roam the park to keep too many people from congregating in the same location. Unlike Disneyland, Disney World has been allowing visitors from outside of Florida to enter. If they were infected during their trip, there’s no reliable way to trace the situation. Outside the U.S., parks like Hong Kong Disney and Disneyland Paris have had their own concerns about reopening.
“Consumers trust Disney to do the right thing, and we’ve certainly proven that we can [open] responsibly, whether it’s temperature checks, masks, social distancing, [or] improved hygiene around the parks,” said Disney COO Bob Chapek in an interview with CNBC. That said, there have been plenty of instances of people not following some very simple and clear rules at theme parks already. In addition, there will, inevitably, be visitors who haven’t been fully vaccinated yet or simply choose not to. What this means for the tens of thousands of park employees who were laid off over the last year, remains to be seen.
Certainly, not all Californians will be rushing into Disneyland on April 30, but the number of people who are desperate for some semblance of life returning to normal will almost certainly pack Disneyland to whatever its “limited capacity” ends up being. With the vaccinations currently rolling out, it seems like the smartest, safest mood would be to wait until you and your loved ones are all fully vaccinated. Hopefully, the pandemic will be over in the reasonably near future — but it’s not going to be by April 30.