At Disney World, ‘Worst Fears’ About Virus Have Not Come True


Getting the Anaheim, Calif., complex running again is important for Disney because other areas of the company — theatrical films, cruise vacations — have also been severely disrupted by the pandemic and face a more strenuous recovery. Disneyland generated an estimated $3.8 billion in revenue last year, according to Michael Nathanson, a media analyst.

Last week, a frustrated Robert A. Iger, Disney’s executive chairman, resigned from an economic task force set up by Mr. Newsom at the start of the pandemic. California wants theme parks to remain closed until the rate of new daily coronavirus cases in their counties falls below one per 100,000 people and the counties have a less than 2 percent positivity rate for tests — what the governor has deemed “minimal” on a four-level scale for coronavirus risk. Theme park owners, including NBCUniversal and Six Flags, have pushed back on that standard as unrealistic, saying it will effectively keep them closed until a vaccine has been deployed.

“We’re going to be stubborn about it,” Mr. Newsom said at a briefing on Wednesday, noting that he wanted a “health-first” approach. “There’s no hurry putting out guidelines,” he continued. “It’s very complex. These are like small cities.”

Every other Disney resort has reopened, including those in Paris, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

New coronavirus cases in Florida have dropped steadily since Disney World reopened in mid-July. Florida had about 11,800 new cases a day when Disney’s theme parks unlocked their gates. A month into operations, the number was about 6,400. On Friday, Florida added 2,908 cases. The Orlando area has had an even sharper decline. Disney has said Floridians have made up about 50 percent of attendance since the reopening.

“The data shows that we opened responsibly,” Dr. Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said by phone. “We didn’t cause a surge.” In response to Mr. Newsom’s comments, Dr. Hymel said, “We absolutely reject the suggestion that reopening the Disneyland Resort is incompatible with a ‘health first’ approach.”



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