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Disney World reopens as US virus death toll surges

Disney World is known as “The Most Magical Place on Earth” but as the Florida theme park reopened Saturday, it was counting on a bit of science—masks, social distancing, hand sanitizer—to stave off the coronavirus.

Disney World reopens as US virus death toll surges
A girl, wearing a face mask as part of Disney World’s new health guidelines, waves at Daisy Duck during the reopening of the theme park that is known as “The Most Magical Place on Earth.” Disney World, located in the state of Florida which is one of the hardest-hit by a new wave of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the United States, was closed for almost four months since the pandemic started. Screengrab from CNN
The state of Florida is one of the hardest-hit by a new wave of cases and deaths in the United States, already the most affected country in the world in terms of infections and fatalities.

In Orlando, Disney World reopened two of its four parks—Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom—after four months of closure. Epcot and Disney Hollywood Studios will open on Wednesday.

Several hundred people queued in the Florida heat ahead of the park’s reopening – some sporting Mickey ears but all wearing masks, part of the park’s new guidelines requiring them for both guests and employees.

Saturday’s visitors had reserved their tickets in advance, allowing Disney to control the number of people in the park and accommodate for social distancing. Tickets are already sold out through July.

The park was carrying out temperature checks at the entrance and hand sanitizer was widely available. Disney said it was enforcing social distancing of six feet at attractions and inside shops.

“By visiting Walt Disney World Resort you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19,” the park said on its website.

Gone are the park’s famous parades which allow mingling with Disney characters; also absent are the evening fireworks shows.

On social media, many criticized the park’s reopening as Florida experiences an accelerated number of cases. AFP

The state’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis began reopening Florida’s economy in phases in May and June.

Top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said Florida had begun reopening before meeting the criteria that would have enabled it to do so safely.

DeSantis disputed the remarks, saying his decision to reopen was justified by figures at the time.

At the end of June, the governor took a step backwards, ordering the closure of bars in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus, but cases have continued to climb. 

Topics: Disney World , social distancing , COVID-19 , Ron DeSantis
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