Walt Disney World Resort is no longer implementing social distancing measures on some of its attractions. But, upon further investigation, we can confirm that this decision still abides by the guidelines set by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Since the theme parks reopened in mid-July, Cast Members made an effort to keep plenty of space between parties of Guests on ride vehicles, skipping entire rows or vehicles between parties. Now, some attractions– like Rock n’ Roller Coaster, Expedition Everest, and Slinky Dog Dash — are being filled to norm75al capacity once again.
This change is a move that Universal Orlando Resort began implementing back in September.
This week, a Disney representative explained the change, stating that this was “not an official new phase of reopening, but rather an ongoing evolution of park practices.”
The “evolution” follows Disney’s announcement that the mega-resort slowly increased limited park capacity from 25% to 35% this fall, and it coincides with the CDC’s further understanding of the coronavirus — specifically, the definition of what it means to come into “close contact” with someone else.
The CDC’s Public Health Guidelines for Community Exposure defines a person who could have possibly been exposed to COVID-19 as an “Individual who has had close contact (within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more).”
The “15 minutes or more” is significant when it comes to spending time at a theme park like Disney and Universal. It means that two Disney Park Guests — who are both wearing proper face coverings — passing within 6 feet of each other on Main Street, U.S.A. in Magic Kingdom, for a brief moment may not be automatically at risk of prolonged COVID-19 exposure. They are not necessarily coming in as close contact as they would if they stood side-by-side for over 15 minutes, a situation that could arise while waiting for a parade or fireworks show (both of which are not currently running at Disney World).
This understanding of what the CDC says about coronavirus exposure allows theme parks to continue to take steps safely back to pre-pandemic operations, like steadily increasing capacity and dropping social distancing on attractions. The run time of an attraction like Slinky Dog Dash in Disney’s Hollywood Studios is well below 15 minutes, meaning that Guests who are sitting row by row alongside other parties are still not coming in contact with each other for longer than what is advised by the CDC.
For example, here is Disney Park’s ride-along video of Expedition Everest. The video is less than two minutes long:
Disney also further elaborated on the decision by explaining,
“Those rides were selected because they feature higher backs that create more of a physical barrier between guests, the representative said, noting that the choice had been made with the support of local Florida health officials.”
It should also be mentioned that the Walt Disney World Resort is continuing to go above and beyond with its health and safety protocols. All Guests still have to go through temperature screening and must wear masks at all times, unless they are eating or drinking while stationary. We have recently reported that Cast Members have stopped attractions because Guests decided to remove their masks. It appears that, given the mask requirements that are still strictly enforced, Disney is prioritizing mask compliance more than separating parties on attractions, though as we stated this may not be a bad thing.
While the idea of being packed into a coaster train with strangers again might be uncomfortable to some amid an ongoing pandemic, this is a decision Disney appears to have made with the CDC guidelines in mind and the support of local health officials keeping Guest safety at the forefront. This new understanding of safety measures also makes us wonder what experiences Disney will soon be able to bring back in the new year.
Planning your next Walt Disney World Resort vacation? Our friends at Academy Travel are here to help!