Friday,  September 18, 2020  6:56 pm

Disney Parks’ Chief Medical Officer outlines plans for reopening

Disney Parks’ Chief Medical Officer outlines plans for reopening
Disney Parks’ Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pamela Hymel. (Disney)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

The company behind the theme parks that many call the happiest and most magical places on earth has revealed its safety plans for re-opening after being shuttered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Disney Parks’ Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pamela Hymel says Disney is “evaluating several new and enhanced safety measures” to re-open its parks, resorts and stores to the public.

The company began closing its theme parks at the end of January, starting in Asia, and then in the United States in mid-March after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.

The closures have led to eye-popping losses in revenue, with Disney’s Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products segment posting a hit of around $1 billion USD during the second quarter.

Disney is evaluating new and enhanced safety measures to re-open its parks. (Michael Pihach/Pax Global Media)

Guest capacity measures

Disney has already announced that its Shanghai Disney Resort will begin the early phases of re-opening Shanghai Disneyland next week on Monday, May 11th.

In the U.S., Disney Springs at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida will begin a phased reopening starting on May 20th.

If anything, the re-opening of these two properties will be a blueprint for how the company will adapt health and safety protocols in its theme parks around the world.    

Occupancy caps and crowd control – two things that Disney has, arguably, mastered over the years – are at the forefront of Shanghai Disneyland’s approach to welcoming back visitors.

Prior to COVID-19, that particular park reportedly welcomed up to 80,000 visitors per day. Now, due to a government-imposed mandate, Shanghai Disneyland will operate at a 30 per cent capacity, which translates to around 24,000 visitors. 

This is one of many safety measure Disney is exploring, wrote Dr. Hymel in a recent post on Disney Parks blog.

“We’re looking at all of our locations and how best to begin the reopening process, including a gradual reopening and/or partial reopening of certain locations,” Dr. Hymel wrote.

The opening of retail and dining locations, prior to the opening of theme parks, is one possibility, Hymel suggested.

Physical distancing and capacity measures in Disney parks will also be a priority.

“As you can imagine, managing guest density in queues, restaurants, hotels, ride vehicles and other facilities throughout the park and across the resort is a major focus, as we implement physical distancing guidelines based on guidance from health authorities, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and appropriate government agencies,” Dr. Hymel wrote.

This will include guest capacity measures to comply with state and federal guidelines, she said.

“We’re also exploring ways to use technology to aid us in these efforts, like with our Play Disney Parks App and through virtual queues at Disneyland and Walt Disney World,” she wrote.

Physical distancing and capacity measures in Disney parks will be a priority when its parks re-open, officials say. (Michael Pihach/Pax Global Media)

Then there’s the protocols Disney will have to adapt around cleanliness and sanitization.

“We’re planning increased cleaning and disinfection, determining where that should take place (for example, in high-traffic areas), and the cleaning products and processes we’ll use,’ Dr. Hymel wrote.

READ MORE: Disney parks take a $1-billion hit due to COVID-19 shutdown

Enhanced screening procedures and prevention measures (such as face coverings) aren’t off the table either. Disney says it will be following the guidance from the government and the medical community.

“Some measures, like adding hand sanitizers and hand washing stations across our resorts, have already been implemented,” Dr. Hymel wrote.

Disney employees – “Cast Members” – will also receive new training and reinforcement as the parks inch closer to a reopening, she said.

Disney’s ideas align with a health and safety guideline recently released by the U.S. Travel Association, which was submitted to the White House and the governors of U.S. states and territories on May 4th. 

The guidance, called “Travel in the New Normal,” aims to help the U.S. travel industry adapt to the new realities of the COVID-19 pandemic by tailoring their businesses to demonstrate the safety and well-being of guests.

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