What I Need to Feel Comfortable Returning to Disney with my High Risk Child

My family was planning to go to Disney World this June for the annual conference for CureSMA. My youngest has a neuromuscular disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which impacts all of his voluntary muscles. He has a tracheostomy, sleeps on a ventilator, and eats completely by tube. In the wake of COVID-19, CureSMA decided to cancel their conference since it is essentially a gathering of high risk individuals that probably do not need to be traveling from all over the country right now. That led my family to go ahead and cancel our June trip and postpone to October, but we still are not planning on bringing our high risk child with us for that trip. We do plan to return with him in June of 2021. But, all the speculation has made me think about what Disney can do to help me feel safe to bring him back to the parks. Here are my top 3:

Cleaning – Plain and simple cleaning procedures will help me feel comfortable. Having a child with mobility challenges helps in some ways because he is not likely to be running his hands over hand rails, touching buttons, and coming into contact with many public surfaces. However, my other kids will touch all the things. Thent they will touch their brother. Disney is probably the cleanest theme park I have ever been to, but they could still step up the protocols especially when it comes to sanitzing surfaces like handrails and ride restraints. I do not just want them to say they are cleaning more frequently, I want to see them cleaning when I am in the park.

-Data and Contact Tracing – This one is not necessarily Disney’s responsibilty entirely, but they can be cooperative and helpful in the local health department’s efforts. It will also take some time, hence us not looking to bring our high risk child until summer 2021. To feel comfortable, I need some data to indicate that Disney World is not just a cesspool of COVID-19 germs. If we see outbreak after outbreak that can be traced to people visiting Disney World, we are not going to be comfortable going. But, if Disney and the local health department are able to trace cases well and indicated that COVID-19 is not really spreading at Disney World, that will help us feel safe again.

-Not Allowing People from Hot-Spots – This one is not going to be easy or popular. But, the reality is that some places both inside the United States and Internatially are still hot spots for COVID-19, while others are seeing a reduction in cases. I really think Disney needs to be mindful of where active hot spots are and restrict travel to the resort from those areas. Non-essential travel will be in the later phases of areas opening up. But, currently not all states are opening at the same rate. Hot spots can change and likely will as time goes on. I anticipate Disney needing a task force that watches the numbers and data to guide Disney’s decisions.

There are also several rumored policies that will not impact my feelings of safety at all. Here are the bottom 3:

-Temperature Checks – Temperature checks at the gate do not help me feel safe to bring my high risk child to the park in the slightest. Not only have we likely already waited in line or been on a bus/boat/monorail with the person who registers a temperature at the gate, but everything we know about COVID-19 indicates that temperature is not a good guage for whether someone is going to spread the virus or not. The biggest issue with COVID-19 is the number of people who are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic who spread it without ever realizing they have it. Temperature checks will not prevent that from happening.

-Masks – This one comes with a disclaimer. I would feel safer at Disney World if everyone wore a mask. However, I am fearful that Americans will not be compliant with mask wearing. I see people in my local area wearing the mask over their mouth but pulling it down off their nose or pulling it down every time they talk. Americans do not know how to wear masks as part of regular life. With the need to constantly hydrate in the Florida heat and the amount of in and out of buildings that people do, I imagine that most will have their mask off more than on. Then it just becomes another way that people have their hands up by their face.

-Capacity Limitations – Limiting capacity to 50% only helps if that 50% are all actually spread out, which no one can gaurantee. It is great to be at 50% capacity until most of those people are trying to get through the turnstyles, filter into popular shows and attractions, and line the streets for parades or fireworks. Hard core fans know that people tend to tour the parks in predictable ways and will choose to go down a different path to avoid the crowd. Do you assign everyone a land at the gate? I do not think a capacity limitation helps me feel any more safe.

I really believe that Disney will put in place several new policies when they re-open. Some may help me feel safer and others may not. Luckily, there are few things they could do to make me feel more unsafe (except for maybe spraying the park with COVID-19 germs to promote herd immunity). Those of us that live with vulnerable people are comfortable evaluating risk around illness. Going to Disney World after a Pandemic will carry some degree of risk for some time, but Disney has the power to mitigate that risk and help people feel truly comfortable to “come home” once again.

6 thoughts on “What I Need to Feel Comfortable Returning to Disney with my High Risk Child

  • May 13, 2020 at 8:14 pm

    As someone with Cast Member friends who are high risk people, and will be forced to choose between their jobs and their heath when they’re forced back to work so people like you can have fun, I want all these things, whether they make you comfortable or not.

  • May 14, 2020 at 10:24 am

    For your October trip to WDW, what will you do with you return home? Even if your high risk child doesn’t go with you, you might bring the virus back to them. That’s part of why we’re delaying travel plans until there’s a vaccine, we don’t want to bring the virus back to anybody at home who’s high risk, and we can’t quarantine for 14 days after our vacation.

  • May 14, 2020 at 1:14 pm

    There are several places articles like this are missing when talking about “procedures” that would make us feel “safe.” The first one is the finger scanner. Cast members can not sanitize this between people because when sanitizing it needs to be wet and air dry. So, Disney really needs to think about Seaworld/Busch Gardens. Fingerprints have not been used in almost two years. You enter the park by not touching anything. A cast member scans your ticket without touching it and your photo pops up then in you go. This is the very first must.

    I agree with you on how does Disney or any big venue plan on keeping the people spread out? This just sounds like a problem from the very beginning. The only was I can see this happening is if the My Disney Experience app gives you notifications on which ride you can go to next. Instead of the fastpass system, when you enter the park fill out which rides you would ride and would not ride and your party is already linked. They could push notifications to your phone for the next ride or experience. They can use this to direct people and keep everyone spread out. I know this isn’t foolproof, but it has to be better than just letting everyone wander aimlessly.

    The next item on my list Is the bathrooms. There is no social distancing in those. I mean, Liberty Tree Tavern bathroom is only slightly bigger than 6×6, and with such a small bathroom in a restaurant where you are supposed to wash hands before eating and after…I just don’t see how this would work at 50%. And, that very narrow hallway is home to both the men’s and women’s rooms. Plus, scientific research has shown aerosolization. This might be the place with the biggest risk and the place hardest to socially distance.

    I know many of you really want to go to Disney and please be my guest. Some are more comfortable than others. Plus, some already have antibodies against the virus(I’m not debating that antibodies are 100% that you can’t get this again). I think I will take the wait and see approach for now.

  • May 15, 2020 at 7:24 am

    As someone with the exact same reservation dates and with a 15yo who had a tracheostomy and slept on a vent until he was 7 I have exactly the same concerns and approve of your thoughts on things Disney can do. I am really concerned that the opening of Shanghai Disney will be viewed here in the US as “the test” and people will be gun ho to get “back to normal” We are not even CLOSE to your suggestions. Temperature checks as you enter the park are only going to weed out people actually sick. Those are not the ones we need to worry about. I am really worried that the law exempting businesses from responsibility if someone gets Covid while there will be the downfall of all.

  • May 17, 2020 at 8:37 am

    I don’t think she was suggesting that these measures not be put in place, just that they won’t increase *her* comfort level in bringing her at-risk child to WDW. No need to get snippy.

  • May 23, 2020 at 8:39 am

    I appreciated your article and completely agree with the things that will not make you feel more comfortable. I see people wear masks into Walmart all the time, then pull them down to talk on their cell phone or drink a beverage while shopping or just pull them down because they are uncomfortable. In the Florida heat and humidity, I can’t imagine people leaving them on. They also have tried directional floor signs at my local Walmart to keep people flowing in one direction in the aisles, only a small handful of people pay any attention to them. What will make me feel most comfortable is a safe, effective vaccine, and access to it for my family members, before we travel to Disney again. We cancelled our August trip this year and are hoping things will be different by next August.

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