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A Message about Disney Parks from Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pamela Hymel

Dr. Pamela Hymel

by , Disney Parks Chief Medical Officer

Dear Guests, 

As you may have heard at Disney’s Q2 FY20 Earnings Results Webcast, our CEO Bob Chapek announced that Shanghai Disney Resort will begin the phased reopening of Shanghai Disneyland on May 11 – an encouraging sign for Disney parks and retail locations all over the world. After so much time at home, I know many of you are eager to enjoy the magic of a Disney parks visit, and we can’t wait to welcome you back.

I’m fortunate to work with Disney’s extraordinarily talented team of health and safety experts who are some of the most experienced in the industry. Together, with our colleagues in operations, and local health and government authorities, we’re evaluating several new and enhanced safety measures to do our part towards helping us stay well while we work, stay, and play at a Disney resort and a Disney store. I’m also working closely with the US Travel Association on a set of guidelines the travel industry may tailor to their individual businesses to help demonstrate that safety of travelers is a top focus.

To that end, I want to share an update with you about our plans and considerations as we prepare for the reopening of our parks, resorts and stores. At Disney, we’re exploring:

  • Phased reopening: 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. For example, the opening of retail and dining locations prior to the opening of our theme parks.
  • Physical distancing and capacity measures: 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. This will likely include implementation of guest capacity measures to comply with state and federal guidelines. 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.
  • 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.  
  • Screening and prevention support: We’ll follow guidance from the government and the medical community regarding enhanced screening procedures and prevention measures, including those related to personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face coverings. Some measures, like adding hand sanitizers and hand washing stations across our resorts, have already been implemented.
  • Cast training: We’re further emphasizing our strong culture of health and safety amongst our cast members, and will continue to provide new training and reinforcement as we get closer to reopening.

These are just a few examples of the many areas we are developing plans for, so please keep an eye on our online channels, where we’ll provide more details as we confirm and begin to implement our plans. Given the constantly changing global health environment, these practices may evolve as we consider the latest guidance, but we will share more information with you as we look towards reopening.

In the meantime, our focus remains on the health and safety of the entire Disney community – including the wellbeing of the Cast Members who are caring for and securing our parks and resorts during the closure. We have already implemented a number of enhanced health and safety measures, such as increasing the frequency of cleaning and disinfection in work areas, adjusting practices to promote physical distancing, and providing Cast with access to necessary PPE, including face coverings. We continue to learn from these experiences and will carry these lessons into reopening and beyond.

Finally, I want to recognize the medical professionals working to bring care and comfort in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. We will continue to do what we can to help support the medical community and our local communities during this time.

We’re looking forward to welcoming all of you back to our Disney parks, resorts and stores. Until we are together once again, we wish you and your families health, hope, and happiness.

Thank you,

signature of Dr. Pamela Hymel


Comments

  • As an annual pass holder I too trust that Disney will find a way to manage the situation and provide a great experience. They always do. As for the mask debate I don’t particularly have a problem with them but always find it rich to hear the zealots demand participation. I suspect that many of them will also be the same ones seated at restaurants, enjoying an ice cream or more than likely snapping endless selfies all without a mask in place. Just like many other health issues that we have and continue to face us we all need to do the best we can and respect others in the process.

  • Everyone saying “there’s no way we can wear a mask in the Florida heat!!”, boy oh boy do I have some news for you about Mickey and Minnie….

  • Me and my wife are 70 years old with diabetes. We have park select passes on payment plan.
    Love the parks ,only 30 minutes away, but was advised by doctors not to go. Do I still pay if parks open? Would like to start again when I is safer?

  • No masks!! It’s truly a false sense of security.

  • Please consider limiting to FL and GA guests only for the first few weeks. If Governors haven’t opened up their states, those residents shouldn’t be attending Disney or encouraged to visit our state. We are trying to get our students back to school and keep our zip codes on healthy upswing.

  • It’s antithetical to the message, Walt Disney created these spaces for his family to gather in harmony with other families to be free of loss for that time, to find that in one magical moment there was a place of peace and trust where we share openly, even though it’s the hardest human form of communication. Where will we find protection from Covid 19, only through a vaccine. Perhaps we should wait, not to see the face of a cast member welcoming me and my family or walking Main Street without fear, the mask represents what we fear trusting each other is what we hope for at Disney.

  • Was there in January. Virus was here already. No issues. No masks. If you have issues, don’t come. Life is full of risks.

  • I honestly would just like to enjoy a resort visit. So many things to do at resorts now. And shopping and restaurants at Disney Springs are wonderful.

  • Masks should absolutely NOT be required for guests. Completely impractical and unsanitary in a theme parks setting. Not only that, wearing a mask all day long, especaillay(in the Florida heat, can be immune suppressive; it’s going to limit your body’s ability to produce Type 1 interferon. That can “awaken” dormant viruses within your own body and actually make you sick. Just wash your hands frequently and don’t touch your face.

  • We have been AP holders for 10 years and go quite frequently each year spending roughly $10k plus. I also have Disney stock so I want to see the parks succeed. That said I will be withholding my vacation dollars until I see a comprehensive plan that does not make it mandatory to wear a mask except possibly on ride machines or theatres. It’s Florida people. Lots of sunshine and UV light which helps to kill the virus quickly when it is exposed.

    It’s very unfortunate that this failure by some places to manage their issues has changed the earth to a point where people feel the need to cover their faces.

  • No mask requirements here either. Florida Resident, Annual Passholder and 20+ year DVC owner. No issue with masks being recommended, but not required. Sadly, we will not renew our annual passes if masks are required. Continuous mask use that would be required at Disney is not healthy, especially in high humidity.

  • As someone with immune issues, I wear masks sometimes even when there was no coronavirus. Sometimes at Disney I get so sick that I can’t fly home and I get stuck in Florida for an additional 2-10 days (depends on how ill Ive become). I have a lot of sanitation equipment for my hotel and we do our best to make sure I ingest as little germs as possible when out of the room. Disney has always helped me to this end. They have always been incredibly helpful and understanding.
    I think making people wear masks until this is all figured out is a great thing. Obviously I won’t be going to Disney until the virus isn’t a problem, but because there are so many unknowns about transmission, I feel masks could be a great precautionary measure. To everyone that can go: have a super time!!!!

  • It would be nice if you opened up to pass holders first. I am already prepared with my Disney masks! We do want everyone to be safe but we are ready for some magic. I just hope everyone can be adults about the measures they implement. I just would hate to see people drive a long distance to get there only to be turned away because the park is at capacity. That I’m afraid will be a daily occurrence.

  • We, like everyone here, are excited to get back to Disney. I feel like the implementation of masks is going to be very difficult–especially in summer. My kids are 13 and 16, and they might do it consistently. But younger children are going to find this very hard. What if a 3-year-old falls asleep in a stroller and ends up suffocating? I know this sounds drastic, but tragedies like this do happen. In our state of 6.8M, 1319 people have been hospitalized and 242 died because of COVID-19. Now we know there are many more cases out there of people that contracted the virus and didn’t get sick enough to go to the hospital. The important number is that 86% of the 242 were 61 or older. That is who needs to be protected and I venture to say maybe stay away from any situation like Disney until the vaccine is here. I’m 54 and getting close to the age, so I understand how upsetting that might be to some. But the statistics show where the virus is the most deadly. And that is who has to take care of themselves until the vaccine comes out. Even with masks, droplets could come out or a child with a runny nose that touches it (because they will) could put their hands somewhere in a bathroom and infect an older person. I don’t believe masks will truly protect this age group (and the otherwise vulnerable).

  • As I read all the posts here, I am stuck on the thought of patience and understanding. Some say that they would not come to WDW if they have to wear masks, while others say they will not participate at WDW if there is not a mandatory policy on wearing masks. Everyone is making these idolized threats of coming or not coming. And I say, why don’t you just wait and see what WDW will do first. The idea is to make it fun, exciting, and a wonderful experience, all while making it safe for both the guests as well as for the cast and crew of WDW. This is a responsibility we all that I am very sure that WDW takes seriously. This Pandemic that we all, including the rest of the world, is going through, will undoubtedly change and create new normals for us all. Some things will probably never be the same, ever again. I am a huge Disney fan myself, and like everyone else, I’ll wait patiently to visit the parks and follow what rules they’ll place for us all.

  • Masks are zero percent effective.

  • I understand everyone’s concern. While this situation is disastrous in so many ways, this is a sad day. Walt’s vision was that when you go to his parks you transported to a new place and forgot your worries. The data is not empirical that masks work and there is equal evidence and concern that wearing a mask for an extended period of time is unhealthy. It restricts O2 consumption and increases CO2 consumption with neg side effects. It is also scientifically proven that Heat and Sunlight kill the virus. This situation is also challenging to navigate as the actual numbers are hard to track as the data is not %100 to begin with. I totally get CYA on Disney’s part. There is no easy solution. I’m saddened that the Disney experience has now been ended. We have been annual pass holders for years and visit Disney World at least 5 times a year staying on the property most of the time. We are eager to return and are skeptical as to the escape and joy it used to bring if we cannot enjoy it because of the oversimplification of a remedy. There was always a risk of crowded parks with international visitors and we took it responsibly. I would rather sign a waiver releasing Disney of any responsibility understanding that we know the risk and no one, no company or government can create a risk-free environment. If people chose to wear masks, that is, of course, their prerogative and I support there decision. I find in the Florida sun and heat, the more oxygen the better as well as keeping my body cool without covering and restricting ventilation is key.

  • Masks should absolutely mandatory, no exceptions. Disney Parks have, and always should feel safe. I’ll also add that as a lifelong Florida resident, the idea that it’s too hot to wear a mask while at the parks is a laughable excuse.

  • I would hope that face masks are mandatory. People who don’t want to wear them can stay home. I hope the tourists who don’t want to wear them don’t cross our state line.

  • We have always been a Disney family. We are passholders and DVC owners. Please don’t force masks. I think those who feel more comfortable wearing them SHOULD. Those who need to wear them for health reasons, SURE. For all others, NO. I’m sure Disney is already producing a line of designer masks for those who WANT to wear them. Let’s make it optional. Cleaning stations and more disinfecting is a great idea! Take Care and Stay Safe!

  • The requirement for masks is just not workable in the summer. Also, as another person mentioned, unless the masks supplied by Disney are the N95 masks the face coverings are effectively just window-dressing to make you feel safe. My wife is a nurse and she has to wear a mask all day at work and she says it is really distressing to wear in an air-conditioned hospital so imagine wearing a mask in the brutal Florida heat during the summer and paying for the right to do so. We will go back during the cooler months or when they lift the mask requirement but not before. We have APs so it appears that ours will probably just expire before we can return. If they cannot police mask requirements for children then the policy is medically worthless. They will be unable to assure that everyone’s mask will be on. Part of the experience is eating so masks will be off for extended periods of time. I would ask Disney to not reopen in Florida at least until the Fall.

  • I can’t imagine what Disney is going through to figure all of this out. However, if anyone will manage, it will be Disney! I hope you open to Florida pass holders only for the first month or two. This will keep all the tourists from returning to our state and spreading the disease not only at Disney, but everywhere else. Looking forward to the day WDW reopens!

  • I cannot believe the number of people who are having a verbal tantrum over simply wearing a mask. Wearing a mask is for the consideration and protection of everyone (including you if someone around you has the virus!), especially the elderly and those with compromised immune systems or other health problems that heighten their risk. Doing so really isn’t that much to ask, and I’m frankly disappointed in how selfish some people are. Please, think about people other than yourselves for once. This is the kind of attitude that is spreading the virus and making it last far longer than is necessary. Just be kind! Be considerate, be compassionate, and care about the whole rather than just the self. One small, personal inconvenience for you could literally save someone’s life.

  • I don’t wear a face covering but I’ll happily wear one if that means I get to be in Disney again! For those who feel strongly against wearing one, you have the option not to go. It’s that simple, we all have choices, pick the one that best suits you and be happy with that choice. I know Disney will make the magic happen again. ❤️

  • I would be happy with any precautions except masks, it will exclude the entire autism community who won’t be able to tolerate it, my daughter would not manage this

  • We are annual passholders and dvc members. Both of those categories should be given priority. however, please keep in mind that we, for example, has 3 non-passholders arriving with us for our august trip should the park open. it would be unfair to treat our non dvc members differently so anyone traveling with a dvc member should be treated the same

    hate the masks but would wear them to be able to come to disney

    find the 9-3 and 3-9 shifts interesting if necessary as long as fast passes for the afternoon reset

  • As A FL resident I purchased an AP to go often ,we stay at the hotels and watch BOB at Riverside. Pass holders should have first shot, If Disney can’t guarantee my access to the parks why spend the money on passes and hotels. I don’t want to wear a mask either but anything over your nose and mouth is a mask. Lots of people from foreign countries wear masks all the time so it may be something we have to get used to. The food and wine festival is coming up wonder how that is going to work out.

  • Masks should be optional. This from a long-time passholder and Florida native. Thank you.

  • People….threatening Disney that your not gonna go….lol…ok!

    Shorter lines with people who are not selfish, demanding, and probably more fun. Sounds Great!

  • We will comply with all rules and regulations that you require. It’s all about safety first. Though I would suggest less guest capacity and preferably a soft opening for Passholders and DVC Members.

  • To all it may concern,
    My family and I would like to see the wearing of a mask to be optional.
    I think to encourage wearing mask, It would be nice if Disney would offer Disney (Disney theme decorated) mask at the entrances for free in the parking lot and for sale in the parks. We would like to see Sanitizer (Disney theme decorated) at the gates after the finger check, all rides, and places to eat.
    Let’s all be Happy, Healthy, and Wise. 🙂

  • As an annual pass holder I am HAPPY to do my part to keep myself and my fellow DISNEY lovers safe, even wearing a mask in the Florida heat and humidity! BUT, with that said, I would EXPECT Disney to their part by NOT letting SO many people into the parks that social distancing becomes IMPOSSIBLE!!!

  • It has been said earlier on that unless it’s a medical grade mask the mask does no good. Just use common sense. My wife have been pass holders since the inception of the pass. Pass holders should be given “head of the line” for entrance. I hope that is being considered.

  • I’m an AP and I guess I’m getting ready to get my second reservation this year canceled but that’s ok if you’re going to require masks. Unless you wait to add the closed days to the ticket until masks aren’t no longer required, I will take the refund on our tickets. I would hope we wouldn’t have to do photos with masks on, and between that, rating, drinking, water rides (so they don’t get wet, they’d be off more than on and having to put my hands to my face to remove it puts me at a greater risk. Everyone’s best defense is to practice good hygiene. I can’t breath and have a headache when I have to wear a mask all day in a/c. I can’t even begin to fathom how that would work outside in the heat. There’s no way that would make for a magical vacation. Long time Disney vacationer, but sorry that would be the end for me.

  • Masks do nothing if are not used properly thus is the problem! If you are not in health care or have been taught the proper way to put on and take off a mask chances are you are not doing it right. I fail to see Disney requiring masks for all guests because of this. The best way to prevent getting Covid 19 is social distancing When Disney opens back up you need to decide if it is worth the risk or not. But masks for guests is not the answer!

  • People, by the millions, come from all over the world to the parks, often with very young children, to a crowded space, and then disperse back to their home countries. With so little known, even now about this disease, so little testing, and the fact that a great many people show no symptoms for a long time, opening a park like Disney World any time spoon would be highly irresponsible. It is virtually impossible to maintain any distance between other guests on the trams, boats and various ways into and out of the park, let alone on rides, restaurants, the parade on Main Street. Even the most attentive parents and staff will not be able to prevent young children amazed by Mickey and Minnie, over whelmed by sights and sounds to maintain social distancing. Many families come to the park with multiple generations of their family from infants to great great grandparents, many of which are at high risk, if they were to be come infected. While my heart goes out to the many cast members and businesses who are suffering financially from these shutdowns, the potential world wide tragedy that could possibly come from bringing millions of people from all over the world in to one packed location could be immense! Disney has the financial wherewithal, and business diversity to survive this, and has often shown to have a good moral compass. I am not sure how easy if would be for the company survive if reopening the parks before safe to caused mass harm and people could no longer feel safe going to Disney properties. As people don’t always show symptoms, scanning for fevers, or relying on people self reporting symptoms are not effective. Until testing is widely available, effective treatments and vaccines are available, and the medical system has the capacity to treat new waves of ill people, opening the parks goes beyond irresponsible. How many people can the local hospitals nears Disney properties would be able to be treated if there were a major outbreak? How would Disney or the local areas be able to handle some type of quarantine or forced travel limitations due to an outbreak? We love Disney and have season passes, but it would irresponsible as parents for us to put are families at risk. Do the right thing, Disney – and it will have long term rewards – doing the wrong thing could be disastrous for all.

  • After reading through all (approximately) 4 pages of comments, a few observations:

    1) If the comments are a representative sample of all WDW visitors (though it’s quite possible they are not), it would seem capacity considerations for the parks may be slightly less of an issue than might be expected, based on which way masks go. Of those who have a strong opinion one way or the other, it seems around half of those say they will not visit if masks ARE required, and the other half say they will not visit if masks ARE NOT required. In between those two groups, there are those who say they will be happy either way. If we simplify the groups into thirds, it seems either group number 1 or group number 2 will voluntarily stay away, depending on what the rule is. So maybe 66% of a “normal” crowd may be trying to visit when a first opening is attempted.

    2) A lot of people are assuming masks will be required, which is not explicitly stated in the article, it states guidelines will be followed (presumably guidelines at the time of the re-opening). Those guidelines could evolve as time marches on towards the day the parks can start a phased opening. It is true that this week’s announced phased opening of Disney Springs starting on May 20 will require masks, but that is only about 10 days away from now. CURRENT guidelines still recommend masks, so it makes sense in that case (for now, for the phased opening start).

    As a non-local AP holder (PA – need to either fly down or drive for a day and change each way), I’m not sure what my preference for my pass will be. It may depend on what rules are when the opening actually occurs. As much as I want to visit, if the rules involve low enough capacity that there is a high chance of not being admitted on any given day, that’s a big risk to take after investing the time and money to make a trip down. So depending on how the guidelines and rules play out, I might need to ask for the pro-rated refund, though an extension would work well for my personal expiration date since it would extend me into being able to schedule a holiday trip on my existing pass this year.

    A lot of good points on the challenges of masks in the humidity/heat. Constant removal to drink water (obviously not optional in Orlando while roaming theme parks) is a big deal. While I don’t have a physical medical restriction as some people have described, I do wear glasses, and they fog somewhat badly even in April in Pennsylvania. I can’t imagine the fogging I would experience in Florida with all the humidity.

  • We are hoping for a fair value exchange for our annual passes. Reducing the number of days or number of hours that we can use our passes is a change of the contract. If the number of days or hours are reduced, perhaps the company can consider a longer extension of time added to each annual pass, similar to the Busch Gardens decision.

  • I read a lot of comments above and was dismayed to hear a large number of people fret about requirements once the parks reopen. I would like to remind people that unlike the flu, this virus does not currently have a vaccine. The virus also has proven it can thrive in warm weather, again unlike the flu. The virus’s highly contagious properties also make it spread faster than the flu. To that end, does anyone want to be responsible to potentially cause severe illness to another guest visiting the parks because they are inconvenienced a little by rules and restrictions that, quite frankly, are out of Disney’s hands and will be mandated by the state or local government before they can open.

    For their part, Disney has already said that pass-holders can choose a refund of the duration of closure in lieu of the extension option. It’s a no-brainer that once the parks are back open for business, the clock will restart for pass-holder passes. I’m sure Disney will be fair if it can only operate the parks at a fraction of its compacity. However, it is unfair to demand a full refund because you are inconvenienced a little by, for example, having to wear masks in high traffic areas. Who knows; maybe Disney will have an option to refund the remaining days of your passes! In any case, I suggest before you start crying about any potential restrictions and requirements and options to compensate the lost time on your WDW pass-holder passes, you wait until those policies are revealed! The bottom line is I won’t particularly like the changes because of the Coronavirus, but I would hate it more if I was responsible for transmitting a severe disease to another guest enjoying the parks as I am!

    So, I guess my message is… stop thinking of only yourself as we are all in this together!

  • I am looking forward to the day the parks reopen. I have been frequenting Walt Disney World since 1972 and I can say that without a doubt, nothing will keep me from the parks. As an annual passholder I will continue to renew because I cannot imagine not have Disney as a part of my life. Whatever requirements are in place I know that they will be in the best interest of the Cast Members and the guests. If a mask is required so be it. I am very curious as to how it will work if I need to have a reservation to visit the parks on any given day. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and just feel like a day at Disney and go for a few hours. Sometimes I just meet friends for dinner, often at the last minute. If that disappears I will miss it, but will understand. I would hope, however, that once a vaccine is approved and in place that Disney would simply require proof of vaccination to enter. No one wants to become ill at the most magical place on the planet. Keep it safe for everyone.

  • I wouldn’t mind wearing a mask or social distancing but I do think if there is to be limited entrances then there should be priority give to annual passholders. We plan at least 30 days on property every year we buy annual passes and at $750.00plus per pass for a family of 4 plus Disney hotel and restaurant expenditures for 30 days we should get priority if entrance is limited.

  • I’ve been a passholder for years and if MASKS are mandatory I will be cancelling my membership there is no way I will wear a mask for hours at disney.
    Valerie

  • I am a senior with underlying condition. My son is an adult with autism. We have saved to be able to get our annual passes on a monthly plan. We are unsure that we will be able to use our passes when you open due to the fact that we are specially vulnerable to the corona virus. Will you please consider special situations when you reopen that some like us are told we have to wait before getting back into very public situations. We cannot afford to just throw away our passes. Also, we love the parks as a sort of physical walking exercise location and to enjoy their beauty. We do not use rides, fast passes and such. We only go to shows, music venues and walk through events. Thank you

  • Masks should be mandatory. Please refund AP to those who refuse to wear one. I am an AP holder, have reservations for August and November, but will Only visit if All of us are wearing masks. For the people asking how to eat with a mask? You simply remove it while you eat, put it back on when you finish. Easy peasy. It will be hot, but you can buy the new Disney cool masks. Please, Disney, do the right thing. Make Masks Mandatory in the Parks and Resorts. Keep crowds down.

  • I did not sign up for all the social distancing, the parks will be ridiculous with the face mask and limited capability. The annual passes were a significant investment. I would like the remaining part of my annual passes refunded since the closing. We still plan to return once the Star Wars Hotel is open and the parks work through their new procedures and everything calms down.

  • Masks are moist. Yuck. Currently holding reservations for Fort Wilderness, November, 2020. Will cancel if masks of fear are required.

  • I have no problem with masks and temperature checks. My biggest worry is that polite and considerate people will be pushed aside during the rush to sign up for limited entry times. Maybe a lottery would help.

  • Hey Disney…I am all in with the masks! Maybe, instead of the passholder magnet, you could send every annual passholder a mask!

  • Thank you for reaching out and keeping us informed. We have a trip booked in the near future and we are looking forward it! We will deal with what is deemed necessary to open those Magic gates ! Hope to see you real soon!

  • Reading the posts it’s like 1/2 are ok with masks and 1/2 would want a refund if masks are mandatory. I’d like a third option as a Florida resident pass holder. I was told that when the parks reopen Disney will add the time closed on the back end. That’s fair for a lot of folks.
    I would like that time to commence the day I scan my magic band and insert my finger into the ID verifier.
    Those of us who have options as Florida residents could then decide when we want embrace the new normal at theme parks.

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