Disney World reopens despite coronavirus case surge in Florida

Disney World reopens despite coronavirus case surge in Florida
Virus Outbreak Theme Parks

“The Most Magical Place on Earth” has reopened after nearly four months, with new rules in place to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom in Florida have reopened on Saturday, while Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios will follow four days later.

The reopening comes despite a huge surge in positive cases of the virus in the state, with 10,000 more infections confirmed on Saturday.

Many cities and counties have recently reinstated restrictions that had been lifted in May, when cases seemed to drop.

Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom are open once again (Gabrielle Russon/Orlando Sentinel/AP)

All of Disney’s Orlando parks closed in mid-March in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.

Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando closed around the same time but reopened several weeks ago after instituting similar rules to protect employees and customers.

Disney’s new rules include mandatory masks and social distancing. Visitors need to book in advance to enter a park, and they cannot hop between parks.

Both visitors and employees will receive temperature checks when they enter, while fireworks shows and parades have been suspended to prevent crowds.

Among those at the park on Saturday was Diane Watkins, a teacher from Helena, Alabama, who visits it about eight times a year.

She said: “It’s the chance to come back and be in the magic. Hot or not, mask or not, we’re just happy to be here. I feel like everybody here is in the same frame of mind. Everybody is just so excited to be here.”

She said that when she and her 16-year-old daughter walked into the Magic Kingdom on Saturday morning, then saw all the cast members lined up and clapping on Main Street, she cried.

“It was very emotional,” she said.

The park is operating at a lower capacity than usual, which Ms Watkins said meant there was only a five-minute wait for the popular Buzz Lightyear ride instead of the usual 90 minutes.

Lori Lovell of Evansville, Indiana, strolled around Frontierland on Saturday morning with friends.

She said: “I have missed coming here. It just feels really good to be back. This is where I’ve made so many memories. It’s kind of our second home. Not being able to come here was hard.”

Park-goers said nearly everyone appeared to be wearing masks, and adhering to social distancing.

“I’ve been here on spring breaks where you can barely walk around. The walkways are very wide open,” said Ms Lovell.

Other changes mean visitors cannot hug the costumed Disney characters. Instead, the characters are in motorcades as they make their way through the park.

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