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Disney To Reopen Parks In Florida Despite A Spike In Coronavirus Cases

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

In California, Disneyland has announced its reopening will be postponed. It had been scheduled for July 17. But in Florida, Disney World is set to begin a phased reopening starting next month. From Miami, NPR's Greg Allen reports.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Disney says the decision to postpone reopening in California was forced on the company by the state, which has not yet issued guidelines allowing theme parks to reopen. That won't happen until after July 4, and the company says it will need time then to bring back and train its staff - cast members in Disney parlance. But in Florida, Disney says its plans remain on schedule.

JIM MACPHEE: Soon we will be welcoming our guests back. We believe this thoughtful, methodical and phased ramp-up strategy for our property is the right path.

ALLEN: That's Jim MacPhee of Walt Disney World in a presentation he gave to Orange County at the end of May. The county's mayor signed off on Disney's reopening plan, and that approval still stands. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis says while he continues to monitor the state's rising number of cases, he has no plans to rollback approvals for businesses to reopen, including theme parks. Robert Niles, the editor of the Theme Park Insider blog, believes it's unlikely now that Disney World's reopening will be delayed.

ROBERT NILES: At this point, they've already given people reservation dates to come into the parks. It'll be very difficult for them to go back on that. Essentially, they'd be re-closing the parks. It's a lot easier to not reopen them than it is to re-close them, so I think that's the difference at this point in Florida and California.

ALLEN: Disney World plans to open to Orlando theme parks, Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, on July 11. Two others, Epcot and Hollywood Studios, will reopen four days later. Face coverings will be required for staff and visitors, and they'll undergo temperature screenings upon arrival. Inside the parks, physical distancing will be enforced in lines for the rides. There also won't be any parades, fireworks displays or character meet-and-greets.

Some Disney cast members reportedly expressed concerns about the conditions once they return to work. Eric Clinton is the president of UNITE HERE Local 362, representing about 8,000 custodians and ride operators at Disney World. Even with the rising number of cases, he's confident the measures in place will keep his members safe.

ERIC CLINTON: Disney is not the local bar on the corner where people might not be wearing masks out of protest or some silly thing like that. At Disney, you will be required to wear a mask. There'll be sanitizer everywhere. It's going to be a completely different Disney experience than anyone has seen ever.

ALLEN: Entrance will be by reservation only. Attendance will be limited. Another major theme park, Universal, opened earlier this month in Orlando. But even with reduced attendance, Niles says it has rarely hit capacity.

NILES: There's no international travel at this point. The borders are closed. There's very little interstate travel happening at this point. And let's face it; a lot of locals in Florida, you know, they're not in the habit of going out to the theme parks in the middle of the summer.

ALLEN: Universal confirmed this week that it's laid off workers Niles and Clinton say they wouldn't be surprised to see layoffs at Disney World. Some in the industry predict it may be 2023 before theme parks get back to old levels of attendance. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.