Critics say Disney World‘s Magic Kingdom, the so-called “most magical place on Earth,” is looking more like the scariest place after reopening amid a record-setting surge of COVID-19 cases in Florida.
Disney’s Magic Kingdom reopened with social-distancing measures in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday, the same day the state identified a record-setting 15,300 new cases of the coronavirus. Videos from the park show masked employees greeting a reduced number of visitors with cheerful cries of “Welcome back!”
Disney Parks Jobs also released a chipper “welcome back” video on social media, in which dozens of masked employees can be seen celebrating their return to work after a four-month layoff. Disney Parks Jobs deleted the video from Twitter amid fierce criticism, according to The Hollywood Reporter. (It remains visible on Instagram.)
“This is the beginning of a horror movie,” Canadian comedy writer Allana Harkin tweeted.
Social media users were quick to blast the theme park for coming back too early, and to mock visitors for going to the park instead of staying home.
“I struggle to understand what is so broken in your life that can only be fixed by going to Disney World during a pandemic,” wrote Elizabeth Hackett, in a tweet that earned more than 209,000 likes.
“I can’t think of any other reason for Disney world reopening, unless Florida is going for the world record in COVID-19 cases and deaths,” added user @mmpadellan in another popular tweet. “It’s a small world, after all.”
Millions of users watched and shared a horror version of the Disney Parks Jobs video. The edited version of the original is set to the ominous theme from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, and the staffers’ voices have been redubbed to warn people away from the park.
“Stay home!” one voice says. “It’s not safe,” says another. “Do not come here,” adds a third.
It’s unclear who remixed the video, but it seemed to strike a chord with social media users.
Disney World says it is taking enhanced measures to prevent the spread of the virus at its parks. Those measures include mandatory face coverings, temperature checks at entrances, enhanced cleaning and various social-distancing measures.
The site also includes a disclaimer for all visitors.
“By visiting Walt Disney World you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19,” the disclaimer says.
Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom parks are now open. It plans to open Epcot and Hollywood Studios on Wednesday, according to its site.
The NBA has also set up shop at Disney World in Florida, where it plans to finish its season with players isolated from the rest of the world.
Walt Disney Co. has seen a softer response from local leaders in Florida than in Hong Kong, a city with five times the population of Orange County, where Disney World is located.
Hong Kong ordered its Disneyland to close after the city recorded 52 new cases of the virus on Monday, bringing its total number up to 1,522.
Orange County officials reported 623 new cases, bringing the county’s total up to 18,624.
If Florida were a country it would rank fourth in the world for new cases, behind only the U.S., Brazil and India, according to a Reuters analysis.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican and close ally of U.S. President Donald Trump, has described the state’s record-setting surge as a “blip.”
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.
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—With files from Reuters and The Associated Press