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Disney to reopen Disneyland on July 17 despite health risks

Health officials worry that Los Angeles may be at risk of increased COVID cases

Photo: James Bareham/Polygon
Matt Patches is an executive editor at Polygon. He has over 15 years of experience reporting on movies and TV, and reviewing pop culture.

Nearly three months after the unprecedented closure of Disneyland due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products announced on Wednesday night that the park would reopen on July 17.

Pending state and local government approvals, Disneyland will join Disney California Adventure in opening its gates in mid-July. Downtown Disney District will open back up a week earlier on July 9, while Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel will reopen on July 23.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, Disneyland’s maximum capacity will be limited to comply with governmental requirements and social distancing measures. According to the blog post, “Disneyland Resort will manage attendance through a new theme park reservation system that will require all guests, including Annual Passholders, to obtain a reservation for park entry in advance. Theme park reservations will be subject to availability.” Details on the system have yet to be announced. The park has put a temporary pause on new ticket sales and Annual Passport sales and renewals in anticipation of the reopening.

Disney will attempt to recreate the original magic of the park as much as possible, but certain activities will take time to get back into full swing. Parades and nighttime shows will not occur during the July reopening, and will return at a later date. Character meet and greets will also be on hold, although the park promises that “characters will be in the parks in new ways to entertain and delight guests.”

Hours before Disney’s announcement, California health officials put Los Angeles, neighbor to Orange County where Disney’s Anaheim park is located, on a watch list for where COVID-19 may soon be back on the rise. “The model predicts that the spread of COVID-19 in the Los Angeles County area is likely to increase gradually over time,” Dr. Christina Ghaly, the director of health services for L.A. County, said at a press conference on Wednesday. Ghaly noted that the predicted rate of cases puts the number of ICU beds in L.A. at risk of becoming inadequate in the next 2-4 weeks. Another outbreak could force the state to revert back to the shelter-in-place measures that forced Disney to close down the Disneyland park and resorts in March.

At the end of May, Disney announced it also has plans to open Disney World next month. In a separate statement, Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, says his confidence in re-opening the parks comes from “hard work.”

“While certain aspects of your visit may change, I assure you the quality of our storytelling, magic of our experiences and the caliber of our cast members has not,” he writes. “We recognize the trust that you have in the Disney brand, and we will continue to earn your trust every day.”

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