Walt Disney World, SeaWorld propose opening dates

A phased reopening plan was approved by the county's recovery task force.

May 27, 2020, 3:05 PM

Walt Disney World has announced a phased reopening plan for its parks.

Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom Park are targeting July 11, 2020, as an opening date. Epcot and Hollywood Studios are targeting July 15.

The Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force met Wednesday to hear the plans put forth by Walt Disney World and SeaWorld.

The plans were approved by the task force. Disney also needs approval from Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Jim MacPhee, senior vice president of operations at Walt Disney World Resort, made the virtual presentation on behalf of Disney. The proposed opening will take place in phases and will require a reservation for park entry to limit park capacity. In addition to physical distancing, guests and cast members will be required to wear face masks and plexiglass at registers and other places where distancing is difficult will be installed.

A "social distance squad" will help guests follow guidelines, MacPhee said. The squad, he said, is a "dedicated team of highly energetic and informative cast members who are committed to engaging and inspiring our guests to follow the appropriate guidelines. These social distancing squad cast members were introduced with the opening of Disney Springs [and] have been a huge hit for our guests and very effective in emphasizing the importance of these elements."

Parades and fireworks will be temporarily suspended to enable distancing. Character meet-and-greets as well as playgrounds are also temporarily suspended. Temperature checks will be conducted for both staff and guests.

There will be more options for mobile food ordering and cashless payment will be encouraged.

"It's going to take some patience, I think, on the side of our guests and some understanding that we're going to do the best that we can, under the constraints that we're under, to open up again." Bob Chapek, CEO of The Walt Disney Company, told ABC News' Rebecca Jarvis. "Because in order to go to full speed, you've got to start somewhere and we're going to start from the beginning and we're going to be very responsible in doing it."

Chapek said that the biggest challenge in reopening the theme parks has been to ensure the company continues to honor the trust that it has built with the community throughout the years.

"I think the biggest challenge in reopening the park is the inherent sense of trust that the community places within Disney. That is a bond, that is a contract that we would never, ever want to violate," Chapek said. "And knowing that there's going to be some implicit risk in doing almost anything in a post-COVID world, we need to make sure that when we do open up, we're doing it very conservatively, in a very measured way."

Disney is temporarily pausing new ticket sales and Disney Resort hotel reservations "so we can focus on guests with existing tickets and reservations (Disney Vacation Club members can still make new reservations).

"Existing ticket holders and Annual Passholders will be able to make reservation requests in phases before new tickets are sold," Disney said in a press release, adding that the company will be reaching out to these guests soon to provide additional details.

SeaWorld also presented an opening plan at the meeting on Wednesday. The theme park proposed June 11 as the public reopening date. Face masks, staggered seating, social distancing in lines are all part of the proposed plan. At rides, there will be hand sanitizer both as guests board and deboard.

At the SeaWorld water parks -- Discovery Cove and Aquatica -- there will be increased sanitation at high-touch surfaces like rafts. Lounge chairs will be spaced out.

Universal Orlando has already been approved to reopen for the public on June 5.

The Walt Disney Company is the parent company of ABC News.

ABC News' Taylor Dunn contributed to this report.

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