Disney World reopening is a 'terrible idea,' epidemiologist warns

Disney World is about to reopen amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in Florida, but an epidemiologist is warning that "basically everybody" shouldn't go.

Disney is moving ahead with its previously announced plan to reopen its Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom theme parks in Orlando, Florida, on July 11, doing so with precautions like temperature checks and a mask requirement. But since Disney originally announced this July reopening date, Florida has been breaking records for number of new COVID-19 cases. On Friday it reported more than 11,000 new infections.

With this in mind, Dr. Anne Rimoin, epidemiology professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, on Friday spoke to Variety and said that it's a "terrible idea to be opening right now" given the state's coronavirus numbers.

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"Moving forward with reopening, I think, is inviting disaster," Rimoin said.

Rimoin added that she'd recommend anyone in a vulnerable group or who is around anyone in a vulnerable group to "stay home" from theme parks— which, she noted, is "basically everybody."

"It just seems like a very irresponsible thing to do," Rimoin said, warning Disney World may end up being "the happiest place on Earth ... for the coronavirus."

Some Disney employees defended the steps the company has taken to reopen to Variety. Krysta White, an attractions host, said that although she has "mixed feelings" about going back to work, "I can't think of anything that Disney could have possibly done to make this a safer situation for the cast members." Other workers called for the opening date to be delayed via a petition reading, "people are more important than making a profit." It drew thousands of signatures.

Although the reopening of Disney World was not delayed, plans to reopen Disneyland in California were postponed last month as that state also experiences a surge in COVID-19 cases. No new date has been announced.

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Brendan Morrow

Brendan is a staff writer at The Week. A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in journalism, he also writes about horror films for Bloody Disgusting and has previously contributed to The Cheat Sheet, Heavy, WhatCulture, and more. He lives in New York City surrounded by Star Wars posters.