Disney theme parks around the world have been closed throughout the current health crisis, and there are a lot of questions about what policies and procedures may be put into place once they reopen.
One of the biggest concerns Disney has right now is figuring out how to safely get guests and Cast Members back into the parks. We’re certain Disney won’t re-open the parks until they come up with the best possible solution. But in order to keep everyone safe while in their care, there are probably going to have to be some BIG changes. One of those changes might be a mandatory health screening.
Bob Iger, former CEO and current Chief Executive of the Walt Disney Company, has recently stated Disney Parks are exploring the possibility of requiring health screenings to enter the domestic parks; and Disney has already implemented a health screening process in Shanghai, the first Disney park to slowly reopen in phases to the public.
While the Walt Disney Company has not confirmed that health screenings will be used when the domestic Disney Parks reopen, the company has lots of choices for how to implement them should they decide to do so. Today, we’re looking at a few of their potential options based on what’s happening worldwide.
What Are Health Screenings?
When Disneytown, Wishing Star Park, and Shanghai Disneyland Hotel reopened last month, guests had to pass through an initial temperature screening. Recently, the guidelines have become even stricter, requiring guests to have a green-colored nationally issued QR health code to enter (more on that in a bit!).
With Disney’s former CEO stating that we need to prepare for “a world where our customers demand that we scrutinize everybody,” this could be our new norm. But what exactly does that mean?
Just like going through a security gate (like you’re already used to doing when you enter the parks), it’s possible now that you might be checked for signs of illness when the Disney parks reopen.
You could be screened for physical symptoms such as coughing or sneezing, but Disney will most likely need something more concrete to assure the safety of its guests and Cast Members. We’ve already found many of our readers have concerns with having their temperatures checked, due to the possibility of inaccuracies, false readings, and a scammed system. So what other options are out there?
What Are Potential Health Screening Options?
Let’s examine how some airports, businesses, and governments are currently conducting health screenings to get some context for what options Disney might implement.
Interview or Questionnaire
Disney could require a “Declaration of Health” to enter the parks. This could be as informal as being asked a series of “yes” or “no” questions such as “Do you have a fever? Shortness of breath? A headache?” or “Have you been in contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 recently?” It could be verbal or it could also be a survey that you would need to fill out ahead of time.
You may have encountered this type of health screening at your doctor’s office during the recent Ebola outbreak a few years ago. If they asked you whether you’d been to an Ebola-affected country in the last month, that was an “interview” type health screening.
Based on your responses, you could be permitted to enter, or you could be turned away. This process would most likely need to be repeated each time you planned to enter the parks. Many businesses including hospitals and airlines have been using this type of screening to monitor employee health during this crisis.
This option of screening would require participation from each individual and it would also require honesty — something Disney would have to take into consideration if they choose to go this route. Would people tell the truth about their symptoms or exposure if it means not being allowed inside the parks? It’s definitely something that Disney would have to carefully consider.
One of the new protocols that Bob Iger has already alluded to is temperature readings. In fact, we saw Disney implement this procedure briefly before the Disney Cruise Line shut down and again when Shanghai Disneyland began to re-open.
But while this option could help identify sick individuals before they enter the parks, there are concerns that there could be too many variables resulting in false readings.
When we asked our readers what they thought of temperature checks, some worried about having naturally higher body temperatures while others thought the Florida or California heat might give an inaccurate reading.
Additionally, readers were concerned that truly sick guests could trick the system by using ice packs or fever reducers to temporarily lower their temperature to enter the parks. Disney World is a costly vacation and that kind of cash outlay can mess with good judgment. It’s going to be tough for some guests to miss out on that once-in-a-lifetime trip if they’re ill. It’s understandable to be concerned that some guests would potentially “do what they need to do” to get in, with little regard for what it could mean for other guests’ safety.
We asked our readers if they would be okay with temperature checks to enter Disney World. Here’s what they said!
Rapid testing for this virus is one of the most costly options being worked on and it’s still only in the early stages of development. The advantage here is that this kind of testing takes mere minutes to obtain results instead of hours or days.
These tests don’t need to be sent away to a lab and can be performed right on the spot. There are many, many types of rapid tests being privately developed, as reported by Live Science; but all of them require some form of genetic material to test for COVID-19. Some are swab-and-wait, while others require a small blood sample.
The swab version takes a sample from the nose or the far back of the throat. While this sounds MUCH more appealing than giving a blood sample, we imagine the process isn’t very comfortable — think of it like being swabbed for strep throat or the flu.
Meanwhile, CNN has stated that Dubai-based airline Emirates has begun exploring a version of rapid testing on passengers which can yield results in as little as 10 minutes.
This version does require a blood sample (a small finger prick) and can determine if individuals have been exposed to the virus by detecting antibodies in their blood. This would not necessarily catch individuals in the first days of exposure before antibodies have been developed.
For something like this to work, Disney would need a much larger testing capacity than what is currently available. According to CNBC, there are currently only 120,000 samples being tested each day in the United States — and that’s just the regular test (meaning it takes a couple of days for results from a lab). USA Today reports Disney World alone saw over 21.8 million visitors in 2018. So unless enormous strides are made, it’s rather unlikely Disney would be capable of most forms of large-scale testing. We can also only imagine how many guests might object to providing a genetic sample due to privacy concerns (and I haven’t met many kids who are totes cool with having their finger “poked”).
There is currently no cure or vaccine for COVID-19, but there are many prospects currently in development. Bloomberg recently reported there might be a mass-produced vaccine as early as September. While certain jobs, travel abroad, and school registration can require proof of immunization for some diseases, it’s unknown where Disney will fall on this rather touchy subject.
While it’s a possibility Disney could ask guests to show proof of vaccination, it would not be without controversy. Disney has never required any form of immunization to enter any of their parks. There has never been a precedent like this before to know just how guests might react.
Health QR Codes
China is further along in this health crisis than we are in the United States, and they have already begun the lengthy process of re-opening places of work, school, and business. As Chinese citizens have begun returning to “normal life”, many citizens have begun using an app on their smartphones which gives them a designated Health QR code.
After filling out a quick survey, the software assigns them a green, yellow, or red Health QR code, which is scanned at different “health checkpoints” each time a person enters a public area or uses mass transit.
Using the app is completely voluntary, but the New York Times is reporting that it’s nearly impossible to move about freely without it. Since recently upping its health screening protocols, Shanghai Disneyland is requiring a green Heath QR code for entry inside its open venues.
Some Chinese citizens have dissenting opinions about the government using this app to learn their personal information and “track” their movements, and Americans might feel the same. Again, this one doesn’t sound super-likely to happen here, but it’s obviously a health screening option since Disney is requiring it in Shanghai.
Contact Tracing Through Bluetooth
Along similar lines to Health QR codes, Apple and Google are working together on a new tool that can be used to slow the spread of the virus through contact tracing. This technology will be able to follow a person’s movements through their Bluetooth-enabled devices to know their location. If they’ve come into close-proximity with potential exposure to the virus, they could be notified.
This tech certainly isn’t without its privacy concerns. But until quick, widespread, and (hopefully) free testing is available, it might be one of the better recourses out there to accomplish one of the main tenants of containment — tracing and notification of those who may have come into contact with the virus.
How Will Health Checks Affect Guests?
While regular and thoroughly performed health checks will definitely make some guests feel safer, some people will not take kindly to what they could see as an invasion of their privacy. People who don’t want to share their personal information openly might avoid going to the parks while health checks are being enforced.
It’s also likely Disney will lose some of its efficiency by performing health checks. Many of the options we just explored will take some time to set up and perform, which means we might see longer wait times to enter the parks.
Remember, none of these options has been announced by Disney World representatives. We know that Bob Iger has referenced temperature checks (and Disney Cruise Line implemented temperature checks on cruises before the cruise line shut down in March); and we know that Shanghai Disneyland is currently using temperature checks and QR Code screening. But Disney World has not yet confirmed the use of health screenings when the parks reopen.
That said, Disney has a lot of pros and cons to weigh with each of these possible options and now you have at least some idea of what we might expect in terms of health screenings should they be implemented. We’ll continue to monitor all official statements released by Disney as soon as they provide any additional information.
Would you prefer to see Disney implement health screenings, or not? Let us know in the comments below.