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Disney World, Sea World submit reopening plans

SeaWorld and Walt Disney World will reopen in Orlando in June and July after months of inactivity because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to plans a city task force approved Wednesday.

The proposals will now be sent to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for final approval.

The plan calls for SeaWorld to open to the public on June 11. Disney plans a tiered reopening, with Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom opening on July 11, followed by Epcot and Hollywood Studios on July 15. Last week, Universal Orlando presented its plan to reopen on June 5. That plan also has been approved by the Orlando task force, which sent its recommendation to the governor.

“We are developing a series of ‘know before you go’ communication vehicles and our objective is to reinforce our health and safety messages to guests before they arrive on our property so they are aware and prepared for the new environment,” Disney’s senior vice president of operations, Jim McPhee told the task force.

He also said the parks would open with limited capacity, but he didn’t specify the number of guests who would be allowed in initially. In a statement, the company said attendance will be managed through a new system that requires advance reservations for park entry.

Disney World also plans smaller, soft openings prior to July 11, but no specifics were provided.

SeaWorld is planning an employee appreciation event on June 10 before opening to the public the next day, said Interim CEO Marc Swanson.

When Disney Springs, a complex of restaurants and shops near Disney World, reopened, the company formed “social distancing squads,” which McPhee said have been popular with guests.

He said they are “a dedicated team of highly energetic and informative cast members who are committed to engaging and inspiring our guests to follow the appropriate guidelines.”

Both parks said they will require guests and employees to wear face coverings and social distancing will be enforced throughout their properties. Guests and employees will also undergo temperature checks before entering the parks. Disney employees will be required to do temperature checks before heading to work, McPhee said. They’ll also undergo temperature checks at the park, he added. Fever is one of the symptoms of the coronavirus.

Fireworks shows, character meet-and-greets and parades will be suspended to meet social distancing requirements, McPhee said.

An inspection team from Orange County visited SeaWorld and Disney on Tuesday to see whether proposed plans would be in compliance with guidelines recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, officials from the parks told the task force.

Orlando Mayor Jerry Demings said he has sent letters of endorsement for opening the theme parks to the governor’s office.

Earlier this month, Shanghai Disneyland became the first of Disney’s theme park resorts to reopen, with severe limits on the number of visitors allowed in, mandatory masks and temperature checks.

We put a poll on Facebook asking you if you’ll be planning on heading out to the parks.

“I have a 15-year-old who still enjoys going, but we have an eight-year-old daughter who is right in the prime age for Disney,” said Peter Sullivan.

Some people have missed Disney so much, they made Disney-themed dinners during the coronavirus-forced closing. Others dreamed of the day when they could finally return to the castle.

“We love Disney,” said Shanon McCosh. “We love staying on the property there, we love all the parks. We spent a lot of time at Epcot and Magic Kingdom.”

McCosh said that despite the strict conditions, she would still go. “I am all for the safety, I just want to keep the kids safe and of course everyone else safe.”

The best way to guarantee you can get into Disney or Sea World is to buy a ticket in advance.

Reporter:Dannielle Garcia
Writer:Briana Harvath
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