Sweeping Changes at the Intersection of Disney Parks and the CDC
In the last 24 hours sweeping news was announced by the CDC that profoundly impacts the path for completely removing all COVID restraints in Disney Parks and the Disney Cruise Line. To that end, Bob Chapek in the quarterly report call yesterday made significant comments that suggested that masks might be removed at Walt Disney World by summer. While news continues to evolve rapidly, we examine what’s going on and what’s behind these announcements. We project what it means and how you may want to consider your next trip to Disney. We offer the most comprehensive coverage possible on all of this, so join us for this milestone podcast.
An outline can be found below, but our podcast carries narrative of the entire experience, to include considerable commentary. You can find the podcast here on Podbean, iTunes, Spotify, MyTuner, and ListenNotes. Please subscribe!
Previous to Yesterday
There were already many things happening at Disney that seemed to suggest that the days of COVID were coming to an end:
- Temporary wash basins were removed
- The temperature check tents were being removed
- Formerly closed attractions and offerings were being re-opened.
- Disney and many operating partners were working hard to hire more personnel.
- College Program Cast Members were being recalled.
- Disney announced earlier this week that the six foot rule would become a three foot rule
- Even the Epcot Forever fireworks were seen by those staying near Epcot as being tested
Then the CDC made a milestone announcement on Thursday, May 13th. The announcement included the following:
In summary, what the CDC has tried to do here is to say that life is great if you’ve been vaccinated because you can do almost anything freely without wearing a mask. The intent, as sincere as it might have been, was to really encourage everyone to get a vaccination so they can be able to go without a mask.
To that end, President Biden would like 70% of the country vaccinated by July 4th. Right now just over 55% have been vaccinated, but demand for vaccines have softened.
But what they have back-handedly done is to give license to those who don’t want wear a mask to simply walk around without a mask. After all, who is going to know whether you were vaccinated enough. And with the CDC making this in a somewhat capricious-looking manner, it only adds fuel to those who thought that the CDC was a political operation.
What the CDC has essentially done is left privately held businesses holding the bag to determine how to manage their spaces. Macy’s, CVS, Home Depot and Starbucks have all essentially stated that they will “study” the matter out. But the challenge will be to the front line employees and greeters who will be left in place to encourage mask wearing.
Bob Chapek’s Response
Ironically timed to all of this was a quarterly call Disney held with investors. The quarterly report itself was sharing mixed results. Disney+ enrollment numbers were soft, though still far ahead of what they projected a year and a half ago. As for parks, Shanghai was above previous numbers. Hong Kong “looked promising” and the company is hoping to open Disneyland Paris soon. And of course, Disneyland reopened. That was huge for the last quarter. Still, the parks division is bleeding in the billion range. That’s not good.
But then came the question and answers. Here’s how Bob Chapek responded to questions about increasing park capacity:
“In terms of the parks, and when we’re going to sort of be able to raise our capacity limits, we’ve actually already started that, given the guidance that just came today, from the CDC, and earlier guidance that we got from the governor of Florida, we’ve already started to increase our capacities, though obviously today’s guidance that we got from the CDC in terms of those that were vaccinated do not necessarily need to wear masks anymore, both outdoors and indoors. It’s very big news for us, particularly if anybody’s been in Florida in the middle of summer with a mask on. That could be quite daunting. So we think that’s going to make for an even more pleasant experience and we believe that as we’re now bringing back a lot of people back to work, that it’s going to be an even bigger catalyst for growth in attendance, and we’ve been quite pleased to date. So I think you’re going to see an immediate increase in the number of folks that were able to admit into our parks through our reservation systems that we recently implemented. So we’re very, very excited about that.
Walt Disney World–Can You Remove Masks if Children Can’t Get Vaccinations?
Despite mask requirements, guests have been visiting. And yesterday they reported a strong per cap growth at Walt Disney World since it reopened.
In terms of the park’s demand domestically the intent to return is growing. We are thrilled with the guest response as well.
Disney is encouraging vaccinations still and definitely expecting everyone to wear masks for the time being. To that end it is sponsoring a friends and family vaccination event backstage at Epcot.
If Walt Disney World wants to save its summer, then more reservations need to be available and more rooms need to be opened up and more reservations made available. The traditional months in advance of planning your trip model is currently thrown to the wind, and people are wanting to make reservations on the fly. “Let’s go to Walt Disney World” this weekend is the mantra, not “Let’s go to Walt Disney World this fall.” But if you can’t get a reservation to get into the park, or if the only reservation you can get into is Epcot, or if your only available room on property is now 50% more than what you typically pay for, then you’ve blocked your guests from coming.
If you asked me two days ago, I would tell you that I didn’t think masks would go away until children had access to the vaccine in the United States for at least a couple of months. After all, Disney and children go together. And while there is an opportunity for children 12 and older to get a vaccine, those under 12 still do not have an option.
Recent polling from the KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor found considerable vaccine hesitancy among the families of early adolescents. Nearly a quarter said they would definitely not vaccinate their children, while a quarter remained undecided. Another 18% said they would allow their child to be vaccinated if schools require it, and just 30% of caregivers said their children would get the shot as soon as possible.
Disneyland–Not Everyone is Sure of the CDC’s Conclusion
Some states that have long advocated following CDC guidelines are now uncertain of the news yesterday. California is one of those states and has now essentially stated that they will “study” the matter out and get back with them. Disney announced yesterday that forward looking bookings were very strong. The state has allowed those outside the state to visit theme parks if they’re vaccinated. While Sea World now accepts out of staters, Disneyland still does not.
Disney Cruise Line–You Can’t Require Vaccinations to Board
Under the Governor DeSantis order that you cannot require vaccinations, cruise ships coming out of Florida are in a predicament. It could be easy to say that only vaccinated people could board ships, which a few days ago was what the CDC was requiring. But DeSantis is challenging that. In turn, Norwegian Cruise Line has threatened to leave Florida. Disney’s hands are tied in terms of making that requirement on board ships. But that doesn’t stop them from requiring that people be tested prior to sailing, and in fact they have made agreements to the effect that they would require that of both passengers and crew. That still leaves ports of call like Bahamian and Caribbean ports of call to be determined, but they can easily utilize Castaway Cay and even do days at sea sailings.
What I have heard as well is that crew members are being invited to return to the ships in anticipation of preparing for sailings. Also, Port Canaveral is providing Johnson and Johnson one time vaccinations to crew members as they arrive in port. It’s my belief we will see cruises occur out of Cape Canaveral some point this summer.
By the way, the video showcasing the upcoming Disney Wish has been viewed some 1.2 million times. Clearly people are excited for going on cruises again–especially on this newest ship premiering in 2022.
The Wayfinder Society: A Patreon Site for Disney Fans
We are offering a new program where you have the opportunity to enjoy exclusive offerings from Disney at Play and Disney at Work. Join us as we introduce our new Patreon program, the Wayfinder Society, intended to give you new insights to all things Disney, whether its work or play. I am truly excited to share this new opportunity with you and look forward to creating new experiences that you will enjoy whether at home or at the Disney parks. There are a variety of options for joining, depending on your interests:
When you join, you will be given access to unique, interactive apps that explores the parks in new ways, offering stories, photos, videos and more.
Here are some of the interactive apps we share with members of our society:
- Pandora: World of Avatar: This is an expansive and detailed look at every aspect of this land. You can’t find any source that has covered this entire land with its attractions, retail and dining more in depth.
- Pirates of the Caribbean Across the Globe: We not only compare this attraction in parks world-wide, but we deep dive into what makes each unique. Currently we’ve covered Tokyo Disneyland and Magic Kingdom. More to come!
- Coming Soon! S.E.A. Assembled! The Society of Adventurers and Explorers are coming to the Wayfinder Society. We’ll document their whereabouts and showcase their imprint on Disney attractions world-wide.
- Disney at Work Interactive Tour: Disneyland. For our upper tiers, we have an interactive business tour of Disneyland to include more than fifty attractions spread throughout the park. These are best-in-business ideas you can apply to your own organization.
- Coming Soon! Disney at Work Interactive Tour: Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary. Looking at the heritage of Most Magical Place in the World, we draw best practices from over the years that you can again, apply to your organization.
As you see, we have so much to share. And when you donate, a portion of your contribution goes to Embrace Celebration, dedicated to helping Disney Cast Members and others in this area who are unemployed during this pandemic. To learn more, visit our site to discover our offerings and various tiers. Join us!