Walt Disney World will reopen to the general public this weekend, despite the fact that Florida is currently identifying about 10,000 new cases of coronavirus per day. But if that isn’t surreal enough for you, check out Disney’s latest video welcoming guests back to the parks. It looks like a bad knock-off of Jurassic Park, except the theme park isn’t filled with hungry dinosaurs – it’s crawling with a deadly virus.
The new video, which is available on YouTube, features shots of attractions like Epcot’s Spaceship Earth and Animal Kingdom’s Expedition Everest. But there are several elements that feel very out-of-place as the video continues. Most of the Disney employees are wearing masks and some even have face shields as they’re hosing down the walkways, making hotel beds, and wiping down virtually every surface in sight.
The video is supposed to be reassuring. But it’s not reassuring for anyone who has at least two brain cells to rub together.
The video plays like a morbid joke for anyone who’s been paying attention to the U.S. government’s complete surrender to the virus. The U.S. just surpassed 3 million infections and has identified over 132,000 deaths from covid-19, the worst outbreak in the world. And there’s absolutely no sign that America’s leaders – from President Donald Trump to governors like Florida’s Ron DeSantis – have any plan to actively fight the pandemic like every other wealthy country has done.
Disney’s Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom reopen in Florida on Saturday, with Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios reopening on July 15. And for any Disney nerd, it’s exciting to see shots of your favourite attractions. But then you remember there’s a historic pandemic going on and hundreds of people are still dying every day, with tens of thousands more getting infected and suffering serious health consequences.
Florida recorded 9,989 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to 223,783 since the pandemic began. And according to health experts like former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, the U.S. is probably only identifying roughly one-in-ten new infections. That means Florida probably had closer to 100,000 new cases yesterday, not 10,000.
A Disney cast member wipes down a ride vehicle in a new video released by Disney Parks on YouTube. Screenshot: Disney Parks/YouTube
Strangely, Florida is still refusing to release the numbers of people who are currently hospitalised with covid-19 in the state. That information is absolutely vital for public health experts to assess when and where vital equipment is needed to treat patients during this pandemic. Governor DeSantis, a staunch Trump supporter, has been in denial about the state’s outbreak from the beginning and constantly tries to play up the “positive” news during his daily press conferences.
For example, DeSantis loves to point out that the death rate is down from what it was back in May. But he doesn’t mention it’s unlikely the death rate will stay low for long. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, it’s only a matter of time before the younger people who are the bulk of the cases right now infect older and more vulnerable people.
“It’s a false narrative to take comfort in a lower rate of death,” Fauci said during a YouTube chat on July 7. “There’s so many other things that are very dangerous and bad about this virus, don’t get yourself into false complacency.”
The other disconcerting thing about younger people getting the disease is that even if they survive, there are still lots of things we don’t know about this new virus. New research out of the UK suggests that covid-19 can have a terrible impact on brain function, including hallucinations and impaired cognitive ability.
Contact tracing – a public health measure to identify people who were in proximity to a person who tests positive and encouraging them to self-isolate – is virtually non-existent in Florida, according to local news reports.
Disney cast members receive training for socially distanced attractions in a new video released by Disney Parks on YouTube. Screenshot: Disney Parks/YouTube
Yes, most other countries are currently experiencing minor outbreaks here and there, as can be expected without a vaccine. But no other country like the U.S. has simply given up on containing the virus, opting instead to just reopen things like Walt Disney World as America identifies over 60,000 new cases per day.
Australia, for example, which has roughly the same population of Texas, is seeing a resurgence of the virus with about 200 new cases per day. As a result, the second-largest state in Australia has gone into lockdown this week to control the spread for the next six weeks. By contrast, Texas reported 9,979 new cases on Wednesday and 98 deaths, a new record for the state’s daily death count due to covid-19. And yet Texas is wide open for business.
“In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS,” President Trump tweeted on Tuesday.
But those countries are also working to effectively control the virus. On Wednesday, Germany had just 356 new cases and 14 deaths, Denmark had 12 new cases and two deaths, and Norway had three new cases and no new deaths. Sweden, which became an international punchline with its early government missteps to control the virus, even had just 302 new cases yesterday and 12 new deaths.
There’s absolutely no reason that the U.S. should be experiencing a worse crisis than all of these countries cited by Trump, given the country’s immense wealth. But it is.
Disney cast members wave during a video released for Walt Disney World’s reopening on July 11, 2020. Screenshot: Disney Parks/YouTube
Hong Kong Disneyland and Shanghai Disney have also reopened in China, but the Chinese mainland currently has no community transmission of the disease. Officially, China has seen 83,572 infections and 4,634 deaths, and even if we assume that’s a substantial undercount, it’s still a tiny fraction of America’s outbreak. How do we know the virus is probably almost nonexistent in China if the Chinese Communist Party often lies? Other countries are welcoming Chinese tourists and have an incentive to keep their countries covid-free. Chinese citizens can visit several European countries like Greece – a vacation destination where American tourists have been banned.
To be clear, Disney World is a lot of fun. It’s a great place to visit with your family, but the summer of 2020 is definitely not the time to go. It’s not worth three months of coughing your lungs up and feeling absolutely miserable just so you can ride Space Mountain. Wearing masks is good and vital for public health right now, and it’s encouraging to see Disney employees wearing them, but masks do not make you invincible. It’s simply safer to stay home.
The Disney parks will still be there when the pandemic is over. We promise.