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Why the Reopening of Theme Parks Is Still a Terrifying Proposition (Column)

Shanghai Disneyland
Sam McNeil/AP/Shutterstock

I’m terrified that entertainment venues are starting to reopen way too soon.

So news that tickets were sold out within hours in advance of Shanghai Disneyland going back to business this week really shook me. Of course I get the enormous pent-up demand for good old-fashioned fun outside the home given the absence of that kind of in-person escapism we’re all deprived of as lock-ins.

And yes, the park reopened under Chinese government guidelines that limit the capacity to 24,000 people a day and require guests to get temperature checks, social distance, wear masks and take other safety precautions.

But, it still makes me very anxious that large public gatherings (24,000 is a lot of people!) are now being deemed safe enough when the continued spread and likely resurgence of COVID-19 in many parts of the world still pose huge potential health risks without a vaccine in sight.

Currently, the number of worldwide reported COVID-19 cases exceeds 4 million, with 285,000 deaths, 82,000 of which are in the U.S.
The reopening of Shanghai Disneyland will at some not-so-distant point lead the way for Disney’s other parks around the globe to follow suit, including Disneyland in Anaheim and Disney World in Orlando. On the media giant’s recent earnings call, the company said there was “limited visibility” on when the parks in California and Florida would reopen, but the first possible reservations date is July 1.

Universal Studios has extended the closures of its theme parks and CityWalks in L.A. and Orlando until May 31 due to ongoing concerns about the pandemic. Again, given how that’s just weeks away, it’s too risky to potentially expose visitors and workers to the virus.

On May 12, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, testified in Senate hearings that reopening the country too early could have “really serious” consequences. Fauci also said he thinks that it’s “entirely conceivable and possible” that there will be a second wave of the virus. The head of the CDC, Dr. Robert Redfield, also told senators: “We’re not out of the woods yet.”