In Defense Of Disney World During The Pandemic

Much of the theme park is outdoors. There’s temperature checks, hand sanitizing stations, and six foot spacing between patrons in lines. Masks are required, and you can’t by walking and eating. You order food electronically before you can go inside to pick it up. And they’re limiting capacity.

If there’s anywhere that safety precaution are being taken seriously, it’s Disney.

For anyone going to Disney World, the relevant question is what would they be doing if they weren’t at Disney? In Florida numerous bars remain open despite restrictions, and gyms are open.

Disney is probably a safer activity than alternatives, which means that Disney being open likely reduces spread of the virus.

You can wish that everyone who would go to Disney ‘just stay home’ instead, or that the U.S. government would ‘go full Wuhan’ (Marriott’s CEO wishes the U.S. were more like China). But that’s not within the realm of possible alternatives. The question is, at the margin are we getting more or less spread of Covid-19 with Disney open? And the answer is probably less.


Credit: Michael Gray via Wikimedia Commons

Florida’s virus spread has been flat or declining since Disney World re-opened a month ago. And nationally confirmed cases stopped growing and over the past few days have even fallen. Still tentative, and I was skeptical at first, but re-opening Disney seems like one of the more responsible decisions of the past several months.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. I’m currently in Disney, my wife had Covid and was in bad shape for 4 days , I had very mild symptoms, and we think we got the virus from my 9 year old step son, who left for a weekend to visit his biological dad, his biological dad cancelled 2 subsequent visitations after the visit in which we think we contacted Covid- when my wife was laying in the bed shaking and going through a living hell- she said “If I live we going to Disney “ – we had the virus at the end of June and we tested positive for antibodies in July and tested negative for the virus twice , we tested negative the Night before our flight – i have seen people following the rules and standing 6 feet apart , I think people that are here at Disney, guest and staff are doing a good job staying as safe as possible during this time-

  2. Just got back from disney world. We were skeptical but Disney has done an incredible job of limiting capacity, distancing people in queues/rides, and cleaning. Everyone was wearing masks and aware of social distancing. There was only a single instance where a child came within 5 feet of our family because he wasn’t paying attention in line behind us. They added line markers for each group. You don’t move until the group in front of you moves off of their marker. I felt safer there than I do going into the grocery store at home. Now….I have no idea how Disney will make money for the next couple of years. The socially distancing queues won’t work at high capacity – everyone would be outside in the heat for most of the queue. They definitely had a lot of employees dedicated to covid related tasks and a lot less guests in the parks. I guess the goal might be bleed less for a couple years until the situation improves. It was odd having the epcot world showcase to ourselves for the first hour of the day – but we loved it.

  3. Everyone needs to stay at home until it is safe to go outside. Any type of public gathering will spread the virus.

  4. Are you….saying that all the kids at Disney would otherwise be at bars and gyms?

    Man, I will never understand Florida.

  5. @Sco, yes all kids go to bars, we even have multiple happy hours geared to elementary, middle, and high schools based on when classes let out! After drinking, our youngsters go to the gym to work off the beers they drank. We got all here…screwed up elections, crazy men (hence, the number of news articles titled Florida man…) and women, and so forth. Please let me out.

  6. @Jojo I also fear the world and everything outside my home! Maybe we should hang out and be scared together and exist in perpetual fear until we die, but not from Corona, because we’ll be safe from that in our homes!!

  7. Sorry, but this is just silly nonsense:

    “Disney is probably a safer activity than alternatives, which means that Disney being open likely reduces spread of the virus.”

    Under current circumstances, it is inherently dangerous to try to attract people from all over the world into a single place, and have them sit on rides, sit at tables and wait on lines near each other. And, by the way, Florida has had more COVID cases than any other state for weeks, and Orange County’s numbers are substantially higher than the statewide average.

    You can make a case for or against Disney World reopening, but to make statements like this:

    “at the margin are we getting more or less spread of Covid-19 with Disney open? And the answer is probably less.”

    . . . is a disservice to rational thought. This is how America has 160,000+ corpses to bury, while Australia (for instance) has 295.

  8. Could not agree more, Gary. We have two trips planned to Disney World (September and October) and very much looking forward to them. It definitely won’t be “normal,” but the “new normal” they’ve set up there has me not worrying in the least.

    To all those who feel it is a bad idea, I respect your decision and welcome your lack of addition to the crowd levels 🙂

    Cheers.

  9. I think your principle here – what would they be doing otherwise – is an important one for several types of decision making. Here there is a debate about whether high school sports should go forward.

    On the one hand, there is, “Somebody will catch COVID; we need to cancel sports.” But on the other hand, kids won’t become cloistered monks practicing vows of solitude if there are no school sports. Are they better off supervised by a coach or not?

    I think, though, that the argument that Disney acts as a magnet to draw together large numbers of people who might not then be as careful when away from the park has merit too.

  10. I’m confused about one point you made. If a family from Tennessee goes to Disney, contracts the ‘rona & is tested/diagnosed upon returning home, isn’t that a TN case, not a FL one? Point being that 1) a substantial number of Disney patrons aren’t Florida residents. 2) The hottest FL areas for the virus is/was South Florida & the Panhandle.

  11. Ridiculous argument, many people fly or drive to Orlando from places outside of Florida. (Is this South Dakota biker rally OK because ‘otherwise people would be doing something worse’?). You can make an argument that Disneyworld is being as safe as possible without getting ridiculous. (Really this blog is getting more and more inane…)

  12. Why oh why oh why is this kind of virus-spreading travel allowed to go on???

    Trump himself said that closing borders is the safest thing. Now they are encouraging people to spread the virus across state borders for VACATIONS? How idiotic and hypocritical.

  13. It’s thanks to idiots like you that the U.S. went from being a country that people admired to one that people in other developed countries pity. “Staying home” *IS* within the realm of possible alternatives. That’s EXACTLY what Italy did for 3 months, and now Italians are no longer dying for no reason and are SAFELY enjoying their beaches (heck, the’re even talk of restarting cruising!).

    Disney reopening normalizes the mass killing of U.S. Citizens. Don’t you realize that deaths are way, way up and are now the equivalent of a 9/11 every two days?

  14. Amazing how many people do t get it. Y’all just stay in your bunkers while the rest of us live life safely. We’ll let you know when it’s safe for you to come out.

    Cheers.

  15. Nope, there’s a reason the U.S. has become a worldwide punch line. Being stupid like visiting an amusement park has a lot to do with it.

  16. Yup. If one does it as an idiot, that’s true. Really easy not to, though. It’s not the people going places safely that have made us a worldwide laughingstock, It can be done.

    However, if you don;t think so, best to stay home.

    Cheers.

  17. @brp – Do tell why you think the rest of the world treats us as idiot cousins regarding the Coronavirus? If traveling long distances to visit an amusement park to ride rides that are only sanitized every few hours amidst a global pandemic doesn’t qualify in your book I’d love to hear the rational reason that we’re held in such contempt by other first world nations on our response.

  18. @Christian, they treat us that way because we deserve it. We have a lot of Bozos who are doing what they do I safely in the name of “my freedom” and “my rights.” Take Sturgis as an example.

    From all I’ve seeen about Disney, the Bozo level is below that of the general population, either because the people are less Bozoid or because of Disney’s actions.

    As to “sanitization,” WHO and CDC gave long ago downplayed fomite transmission as a major vector, even though it’s not discounted. Least of our worries from what I’ve read.

    In any event, plenty of people are able to travel safely. But we still have lots of Bozos. Doesn’t seem Disney is attracting them in numbers at population level.

    In the end we all gotta do what we think best. Just have to do it safely, for us and others.

    Cheers.

  19. I’m sure Disney will ramp up capacity in the next month or two with the approval of local officials. The Sunbelt COVID surge is well past peak and cases/hospitalizations are dropping. Personally, I can’t think of a place I’d like to visit less in Covid times, but the great thing about a free country (which I guess we still sort of have) is that you are allowed to make your own choices. Children and parents under 50 are essentially at no risk (normal flu risk for parents, zero risk for children) so there’s nothing wrong with them visiting Disney World if that’s what they want to do — even if moralizing no-nothings believe otherwise.

  20. @Jake — Please learn some real science, not the garbage you get from the mainstream media. I’d start with Nobel Prize winner Michael Levitt. We don’t need to be a nation of covidiots. We’re dealing with a slightly-worse-than-normal respiratory virus that’s WAY past peak, not the end of the world. If no one understands the science, our leaders will continue to make irrational public policy decisions based on fear, not reality.

  21. @Chopsticks – it’s people with attitudes such as yourself that embody why the US is a global embarrassment at the moment.

    (oh yeah, if we are past the peak, why is the daily death rate higher than 30 / 45 / 60 days ago, ask yourself that)

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