Disney World parks in Orlando, Florida are open again nearly four months after shutting down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom reopened Saturday, while Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios will reopen on July 15.
“The Most Magical Place on Earth” is open for business again even as Florida continues to rack up near-record numbers of new coronavirus cases.
The state reported 11,433 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, its biggest daily increase since July 3, when 11,458 cases were recorded. Florida's health department reported 435 more hospitalizations — the state's largest single-day increase.
On Saturday, Florida reported an additional 421 new hospitalizations as well as 10,360 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 254,511. The statewide COVID-19 death toll has surpassed 4,200.
The United States recorded over 70,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day for the first time Friday. States such as California, Texas and Georgia contributed to the record-breaking nationwide tally, as well as Florida.
On Saturday, Louisiana's Democratic Gov. John Edwards issued a statewide mandate that anyone over the age of 8 has to wear a face mask unless they have a health condition that prevents them from doing so.
All bars in the state were also closed but can continue curbside pickup. The changes go into effect on Monday and will remain in place until at least July 24.
Among those killed by the virus is a child in South Carolina, who is the first to die of COVID-19 in the state. The grim news comes on the same day the state reported its highest number of positive coronavirus cases yet, officials said.
The spike in cases has prompted many cities and counties around Florida to reinstate restrictions and safety protocols that had been lifted in May, when cases seemed to drop.
Florida's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a press conference Saturday that he won't issue a statewide mandate on face masks, despite health experts and many other states urging the public to use them to help stop the spread of the virus.
But masks will be required in Disney parks, which are reopening with new rules in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Visitors are required to practice social distancing and wear face masks. Only people with reservations can enter the parks and they won’t be allowed to hop between parks.
Tickets for the month of July have already been sold out, NBC's affiliate in Miami, Florida, WTVJ, reported.
Both visitors and employees will have their temperatures checked before they're allowed in. Fireworks shows and parades will remain suspended to prevent big gatherings of people.
A rehearsal with employees, bloggers and other influencers took place Thursday ahead of the reopening.
“It's the chance to come back and be in the magic,” Diane Watkins, a preschool teacher from Helena, Alabama, who visits the park about eight times a year, told the Associated Press Saturday.
“Hot or not, mask or not, we’re just happy to be here. I feel like everybody here is in the same frame of mind. Everybody is just so excited to be here.”
Watkins said that when she and her 16-year-old daughter walked into the Magic Kingdom on Saturday morning, then saw all the cast members lined up and clapping on Main Street, she cried.
“It was very emotional,” she said.
All Disney parks in Orlando closed down in mid-March in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus.
In April, Disney furloughed around 100,000 theme park and hotel workers, including cast members who play the beloved Walt Disney characters in Florida and elsewhere.
Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando, which closed around the same time, reopened several weeks ago with safety protocols to protect employees and customers from the virus.
In May, the company reopened the Disney Springs shopping complex in Lake Buena Vista, alongside some restaurants and entertainment venues. Disney Vacation Club properties at Walt Disney World and Disney’s Wilderness Resort & Campground are also open to members and guests.
While most Disney sites in Florida are slowly reopening, Disneyland in California is still closed.