How Will Disney World Be Different When It Re-opens?

It has now been over six weeks since Disney World closed as the country shut down due to the Coronavirus pandemic.  However, some positive signs are starting to emerge, which may lead to the re-opening of Disney World, along with other regular commercial activities.  With that, we thought we would weigh in on how Disney World will be different when it re-opens.

I guess we should also point out that Disney World is not accepting any new reservations before June 1st.  That’s as of today.  It could change tomorrow.  When I say change, I don’t think there is any chance of it moving earlier in the calendar; it would only move back.

Several governing bodies are laying out guidelines and proposals for re-opening like the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force is setting.  In addition, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has set up a statewide group known as the Reopen Florida Task Force.

As part of the Reopen Florida Task Force, the Governor formed a subcommittee called the “Re-Open Task Force Industry Working Group on Tourism, Construction, Real Estate, Recreation, Retail, and Transportation.”  Yep, that is a mouthful.  This subcommittee is comprised of many members of the Florida community.  Included in it are business representatives such as Walt Disney World President Josh D’Amaro and Universal Orlando CEO John Sprouls.

As part of that of the subcommittee readout, Mr. Sprouls spoke on several topics.  While he doesn’t represent Walt Disney World, I think it is safe to assume that both parks will follow similar guidelines in how they operate once re-opened.  Nothing is definitive, but we are starting to get glimpses of what things may look like when commerce begins in Florida again.

Here’s a summary of the things that were discussed in this committee:

  • Daily health screenings for employees
  • More use of virtual queues
  • Encourage the use of masks by guests (but not required)
  • Increase sanitation stations in the park (something Disney World did before they closed back on March 16th)
  • Promote social distancing
  • Higher level of disinfecting high traffic areas and attractions throughout the day
  • Promote the use of mobile ordering and contactless payments
  • Possible suspension of nighttime shows/parades
  • Limiting park entry to lower than normal capacity levels

They also referenced enforcing more social distancing measures, but it was unclear how they would do that.  Are they literally going to mark 6-foot intervals in every queue in the park?  If you’ve ever seen Disney World cast members lay tape for a parade or fireworks show, you know they are expert tape layers.  It’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Beyond the statements of this subcommittee, we also know what Bob Iger, the former CEO of The Walt Disney Company, said recently in an interview with Barron’s

Picture of the Tree of Life and a ram carving at Animal Kingdom.
Picture of the Tree of Life and a ram carving at Animal Kingdom.

Potentially, the most eye-raising quote for some people will be Iger saying, “Just as we now do bag checks for everybody who goes into our parks, it could be that at some point we add a component of that, which takes people’s temperatures, for instance.”

Carla and I would welcome temperature checks if they did them, but also recognize that they are intrusive.  One of the most important things that many in the medical profession (and some politicians) are advocating for is contact tracing.  If that comes to fruition, then letting someone take your temperature before entering the park doesn’t seem that far out in left field.

But back to the various task forces out there.  So, we have a rough idea of where the state task force is headed, but there is also the Orange County task force.  They will likely have as much, if not more, say over what has to happen for the Disney World parks to re-open.

There were a mixture of mandates and guidelines proposed in a recent meeting of the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force.  Mandates are things that must absolutely be done when the economy re-opens in Orange County, while the guidelines appear to have some flexibility to them.  You should note that everything is a proposal right now, but they will be finalized before or shortly after the Florida statewide shelter in place order expired on May 1st.  It is important to note that whatever guidelines the county approves will have to be in lock-step with any state or federal level rules.

Below are the guidelines for each area of tourism the task force focused on.  Some guidelines are only applicable to the first phase of re-opening, while others are for phase two.  We didn’t delineate those here as we believe that this is a fluid situation, and whatever we publish now, will be different in reality.  We should note that these are not theme park-specific. Instead, they are for all restaurants in the county:

There are dining opportunities right next to the kitchen at Morimoto Asia.



  • Paper/disposable menus
  • Encourage takeout/online orders
  • Touch-less sanitizer at entry
  • Phases 1 & 2: Staff who are 65+ are encouraged to stay home


  • Hand sanitizer at every table
  • Hand sanitizer at entry in plain visible sight
  • All employees required to wear face masks
  • Temperature checks for staff prior to shift
  • All employees with flu-like symptoms advised to stay home
  • Doors to be wiped regularly
  • All staff behind counters must wear gloves (except for bartenders)
  • Bartenders to sanitize hands after making each drink order
  • Seated tables to be six feet apart
  • Phase 1: Limit restaurant and bar capacity to 50%
  • Phase 2: Limit restaurant and bar capacity to 75%
Picture of Port Orleans Resort - French Quarter from the Sassagoula River
Picture of Port Orleans Resort - French Quarter from the Sassagoula River



  • Housekeeping services to be limited, allowing for minimal guest and employee exposure
  • Promote mobile check-in, if available
  • Housekeeping services only clean upon request, or when guests depart
  • Allow employees to work from home if not playing a critical role in serving guests
  • Only deliver room service to the guest room doors
  • Provide self-parking
  • Promote social distancing for all guests and staff
  • Touch-less sanitizer at entry recommended
  • Increase cleaning services and additional sanitation services through cleaning companies
  • Staff who are 65 years and older are encourage to stay home


  • All employees are required to wear face masks
  • Hand sanitizer at entry to be in plain sight
  • All employees with flu-like symptoms advised to stay home
  • Front desk staff to sanitize themselves on a regular basis
  • Consistent cleaning of all guest areas
  • Front desk to utilize sneeze-guards
  • Remove all service items in guest rooms, including glassware, coffee cups, etc.
  • Mini bars not to be stocked
  • Don’t offer self-service foods
  • Space pool furniture according to distancing guidelines
  • Pool gates and pool chairs to be sanitized regularly
  • Door handles, elevator buttons, and railings to be sanitized regularly
  • Remove all coffee makers from guest rooms
  • Remove all guest collateral items, except those that are single use
  • Sanitize guest keys before and after each use
  • Sanitize bell carts after each use
  • No conferences or conventions

Now here is the theme park-specific guidelines that are being discussed:



  • Tape marking of 6 feet apart in ride/attraction queues
  • Staff to regularly wipe down surfaces at random
  • Staff who are 65+ are encouraged to stay home


  • All employees required to wear face masks
  • Touchless hand sanitizer at each ticketing entry and turnstile
  • Touchless hand sanitizer at each ride/attraction entry and exit
  • Temperature checks for staff prior to shift (temps above 100.4 must not enter premises)
  • All employees with flu-like symptoms advised to stay at home
  • Wipe down of all railings and surfaces after every use
  • Phase 1: 50% capacity
  • Phase 2: 75% capacity
Picture of Spaceship Earth at Epcot.
Picture of Spaceship Earth at Epcot.

All of these proposals are still just that…proposals.  We’ll eventually see what state and local authorities agree upon.

It’s interesting to note that most of the rumblings out there suggest that Disney World (and Universal) will be able to open at their discretion.  We think it’s likely that they will open in concert with each other.  Having both parks going at the same time creates a symbiotic relationship with each other.

Ultimately, we probably have at least another month to see what Disney World does when they open back up.  This week we heard that Disney has started canceling reservations for late May, so take that as another sign that they won’t open before June 1st.

We welcome many of these possible changes.  I know it will make many people feel safer at Disney World.

Tell us what you think!  Will you be at Disney World when they re-open?  Do these possible measures make you feel better about going to the parks?


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