ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Some of the biggest theme parks in Orlando could open in just a matter of weeks.
On Wednesday, leaders from Walt Disney World and SeaWorld Orlando presented plans to Orange County’s Economic Recovery Task Force detailing how they plan to safely start accepting guests again after being closed for more than two months to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The plans from both companies have been approved by the task force and Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings. Now they’ll be sent to the governor’s office for final approval before any reopenings can begin.
If that happens, SeaWorld would be the first of the two to open its parks. Interim SeaWorld CEO Marc Swanson said the company would like SeaWorld, Aquatica and Discovery Cove to reopen on June 11.
Exactly one month later is when Disney is looking to start accepting guests again its Orlando properties, according to senior vice president of operations at Walt Disney World resort Jim McPhee.
He said Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom would open July 11. Then, Epcot and Hollywood Studios would open on July 15.
“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,” McPhee told the task force Wednesday.
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.
Disney World also is planning smaller, soft openings prior to July 11, but no specifics were provided.
Disney Springs began its phased reopening on May 20 and since then, guests have continuously trickled in. At that time, 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 Disney and SeaWorld officials 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.
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.
Universal Orlando will be the first in Central Florida to open starting June 5 after it recently received approval from Gov. Ron DeSantis.