Opening WDW with Social Distancing


Premium Member
Original Poster
This thread created for the narrow topic of discussing opening WDW with social distancing still in force since it keeps coming up in the Big Thread…

WDW and Social Distancing

People have been arguing whether it is possible that WDW can open and still maintain social distancing.

Of course WDW can!... If they only let 10 people in the park. Yes, that’s a cheeky answer, but it brings us to problem number one: How few people can WDW have in the park so as to allow for social distancing and still be financially profitable? Obviously, WDW isn’t going to open just to run a deficit.

And so, people talk of ‘reduced attendance,’ but by how many? Let’s use the Magic Kingdom as our park of example. The MK in 2018 (the 2019 figures are due by this June) had 20.859 Million guests for the year. On average, that’s 57K guests per day… we’ll call it 50K per day. They’re not there all day all at once, so, let’s say the average peak attendance is 30K.

No, I don’t think (and I would certainly hope not) that anyone would think that you can put 30K people in the MK and still maintain the 6 foot social distance (6SD). And so, what’s the minimum number of people that can be in the MK for the MK to make a profit? Actually, I don’t know that figure.

Social Distancing

And, let’s for a moment talk about what we mean by the 6SD. The six foot figure is from the distance that the large and micro drops we aerosolize by speaking and talking get thrown from our mouth-holes. Sneezing and coughing throw them farther, but we’re supposed to cover our mouths for coughs and sneezes. We generally don’t when we talk.

And let us presume, for this thought exercise, that a 6SD means a good faith effort to keep 6SD at all time. So, this isn’t just with regard to a parade or fireworks. Oh, no. If we’re going to be consistent, it means 6SD at all times, everywhere, without exception (as a matter of WDW policy… not when people accidentally invade our 6SD).

And so, for this discussion *anything* that would violate the 6SD is removed from the list of to-dos, just like parades and fireworks are off the table, unless we can find a workaround that protects the integrity of the 6SD rule. Anything short of that means you’re not really serious about 6SD.

Transportation and 6SD

For the MK to open, guests have to get there. What if airlines have to enforce a 6SD? Well, there goes 60% at least of long distance travelers (not to mention continuing bans on international flights). And when you land in Orlando, is the Magical Express going to pick you up? If it does, it can’t have different parties next to one another… not back to back, and not aisle seat to aisle seat. So, the ME is running at about 50% capacity.

At the MK, the Contemporary gives you the perk of walking to the gate. Every other monorail resort, and the general parking at MK makes you travel by monorail or boat to get to the MK gate. For people driving in, they’ll need to leave an empty row between each group on the tram. So, trams are at 50%.

First, let’s see how bag check goes: There are two lines going to each security person… oops, can’t have two lines next to each other. So now, there are half the number of security lines. Now let’s say there are 10 guests/families in a line. Well, that line is now 60 feet long. And each 60 foot line needs to be 6 feet from each other. And no switchbacks that pass people to walk right pass you, otherwise, you’re violating 6SD. Just how much space will that take up?

Now it’s onto a monorail or watercraft. In a monorail cabin, perhaps 4 individuals can sit in the four corners. Or it’s only one or two families. That’s about a 30%-50% capacity for monorail. Same for the ferries. Can’t pack 300 people on a ferry. Perhaps just 50 that can still keep 6SD.

How about those showing up on buses? They can skip the train/ferry, however, the bus, in order to maintain 6SD will only have about 6 groups (and not the 80 people they can pack in). Then those coming off the buses still need to go through the reduced security.

Once people disembark from mass transit, there is usually one snaking line leaving the station until it can spread out at the tapstiles. But remember, everyone in that snaking line needs to allow for 6SD. If you’re the last to leave a monorail, you may have to stand there for about three minutes for everyone to spread out before you can go.

Now that you’re at the tapstile… oops, they can only operate one of the four touchpoint clusters at a time to keep people separated. The lines at the tapstile can’t be next to each other, and everyone in line needs to keep 6SD. So, you’ll have a dozen lines going back about 300 feet… to where? Where can all those lines snake to without being on top of each other? And where do new arrivals getting off the ferries go if they can’t get off the ferry because of the crowds spread out by 6SD is taking up the entire pre-tapstile entrance?

That’s just the entrance. Let’s go into the park….


What is the MK except a series of queues? 😉 Well with 6SD, a hundred person queue is now a 600 foot line. And remember, because of 6SD, you can’t have switchbacks unless the pathing honors the 6SD and doesn’t make one line go right past another. So once the queue is quickly filled, it will have to exit the queuing area and bleed into ‘the street’ and be a long line that everyone in the street has to keep 6SD from. Just how many of them can wind their way through Fantasyland before they completely block the street? After all, you can’t pass them if it will violate 6SD. And you can’t make them do tight switchbacks.

So, is the answer to have FP-only or VQ-only for all the attractions? Well, that still creates a line. Let’s say VQ is 15 minute blocks. And remember, 100 families in a line creates a 600 foot 6SD line. So, do you schedule only 100 people each 15 minute block and pray they don’t all show up at once. And if you do, are you OK with every ride only having a capacity of about 500 people an hour? Then you have to deal with all the VQ slots being given out with no standby line available (since the capacity of all the rides are now so low).… and, oh, the people will holler about that.


When it comes to filling up the ride vehicles with guests, we’ve already seen that with the strictures on the queues, you’re not going to have to worry about spreading people out. They’ll be arriving spread out.

But then, you still need to spread them. So, the PotC and IaSW boats only get 2 parties each. Coasters fill only every other row. Astro Orbiter can only get one party at a time going up and down in the elevator. Only 40 people on the Riverboat at one time! Only 5 people each time on the raft to TSI.


Shows have a double whammy. We all are presuming the theater will only be about 30-40% filled to allow for 6SD. But what about their lobbies? Shows have a holding pen, much smaller than the theater, to hold the guests before they go into the theater. You can, at best, get only 10% of the theater’s capacity in the holding lobbies before they need to start spilling into the street for a long single-file queue that respects 6SD and doesn’t switchback on itself.


Just like theaters, we all presume that with 6SD, table service restaurants will have reduced seating. Will they also get the size of their lobby increased fourfold? Because, like theaters, restaurants have small lobbies for the guests waiting for their rezzie to get called. So, like theaters, the line for restaurants will snake out into the streets causing more street congestion.

So, are quick serves the answer? Many quick serves have cashiers waiting on two lines. Oops… too close. They can only do one line now. And the people in the line need to observe 6SD and snake out into… where? The seating area? The street?

Is mobile ordering the answer? Well, if you’ve seen it in action, you know at times there can be 10 groups hanging around the mobile order window waiting for their number to be called. Now try spreading them out to observe 6SD. Just think of the Dole Whip counter where everyone in that dense crowd needs to keep backing up until 6SD is reached. They’d completely block that already overcrowded intersection.


All the merch stores have tiny aisles such that you can’t pass one another without violating 6SD. But, you know… Disney can think outside the box! How about they remove 80% of their shelving? Ya think they’d do that? Even if they made all paths one way, that would mean you’d get stuck behind other guests blocking your way over and over again. There’d be gridlock. Shopping becomes a nightmare (more so than it already is).

Jus’ Being There

Just think about walking about MK always trying to keep 6SD. What a nightmare. Of course, you can’t have anything that would attract a crowd. No streetmosphere. No Dapper Dans. No marching band. No stage shows. No trolley shows.

So What is the Solution

If everyone’s wearing masks, then 6SD goes away and you only need to tell everyone to sanitize their hands before touching their face. (And have sanitizers literally everywhere.) The hard part here is getting small children to keep theirs on.

Reduced Capacity: If you have 6SD, then you’re rides and attractions are automatically at 30-40% capacity. So, limit attendance by that much. Instead of daily peaks of 30K, aim for 10K. Can the MK be profitable at that level? How does WDW handle a nightmare scenario of capping the MK to 10K, and then 20K show up?
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Premium Member
I've been thinking about this scenario too. Opening WDW with the 6SD guidelines still in place is not profitable, not practical, and I'm not even sure it's doable.

And as for guests, I don't think many would find this situation enjoyable. I know I wouldn't.


Wake me up when its over
Premium Member
Im not 100% convinced that the SD guidelines will look the same once we are able to review actual data. My guess is that masks and handwashing will be emphasized and the 6foot spacing will phase out over time as its just not feasible for travel, sporting events etc.

Im guessing initially that large gatherings like parades and shows will be limited.


Premium Member
Original Poster
Im not 100% convinced that the SD guidelines will look the same once we are able to review actual data. My guess is that masks and handwashing will be emphasized and the 6foot spacing will phase out over time as its just not feasible for travel, sporting events etc.

Im guessing initially that large gatherings like parades and shows will be limited.

I tend to agree.

But this thread was for the constant references to how WDW can open and maintain SD6, usually with the hope it will open sooner or later.

I personally don't think that could happen, but, I'm not magical like Disney and can think outside the box. ;)


Well-Known Member
Thinking way outside the box, one way I think it could possibly happen is by tightly scripting an experience 'flow' through the park.

Much like a grocery store shopping experience with one-way aisles and controlled, spaced-out entry, you turn the Magic Kingdom into a 'once-through-greatest hits' experience.

The key to this working is limiting guest flow-per-hour to the actual 6SD capacity of the lowest capacity attraction offered, as that would be the 'bottleneck' of the experience. As an example, say the lowest capacity attraction offered is Jungle Cruise operating at 600pph (a 50% drop from its normal 1200pph theoretical).... Therefore our park can only receive guests at a maximum flow of 600pph. Guest arrival time is assigned in advance through a virtual boarding group, so as not to overwhelm transportation and entry. Once clearing the gates, guests are directed down Main Street and in a forced clockwise flow around the park. Starting in Adventureland and working around, attractions offered are:

Jungle Cruise
Small World
Peter Pan
Under The Sea
Space Mountain

Attractions may be skipped but not double-backed to or repeated. Limited food service offerings are in operation throughout the loop, including ample opportunity to stop for drinks and snacks. Some entertainment may be possible in a controlled and 'walk through experience' fashion. Select retail can be accommodated, mostly upon exit of the park. Since there are no significant lines to speak of, the entire loop might take an average of 3-4 hours to experience, allowing for arrivals to continue to be accommodated well into the late afternoon / early evening. At 600pph, MK could therefore serve a potential... 6000 whole people over the course of a 14 hour operating day.

It would not be a 'normal' Magic Kingdom experience in any way, shape, or form.... but the idea of being able to tour the major E-tickets in an almost 'private' experience could make it a very desirable one regardless. Sort of a cross between after-hours and a VIP tour, and due to very limited availability priced accordingly. During this exceptional period of operation, only special resort experience packages are offered, with limited capacity for drive-in or 'day' guests. The resort would remain closed to APs, and those without 'experience' reservations.

Completely pie-in-the-sky and unworkable for a host of reasons I'm sure... but just 'thinking outside the box'.

"El Scorpion"

Premium Member
In the Parks
Let's start with the typical family of 4. I don't think that they're going to be walking into the park 24 feet wide (or long). Much less walking around it that way. So if it breaks down at the smallest level, that doesn't bode exactly well. It'd probably break down with a unit of 2.

I think possibly, protective gear of some sort could work. I'm not talking full blown bio-suits. But maybe some type of uniform mask, gloves, or who knows - maybe somebody devises a type of outfit (or headgear) that wouldn't be too cumbersome (or potentially brutal in the Florida summer).

I'm of the opinion (as are some of the prior posters), that this will evolve over time and will turn into a much different of an animal than it was when it started.


Well-Known Member
So how's this. All Magic Bands are programmed that if they come within 6 feet of another Magic Band, the wrist of the wearer of the offending Magic Band is delivered a shock? The volts increase slightly with every offense. Could work.
Would that include family groups? Like I couldn’t walk with my kids with whom I live and breathe the same air every day?

same thing with lines- family members wouldn’t be 6ft apart either, just groupings between families. So let’s then talk about that- family groups are together- would the air be more saturated then with more people in same area, and crowds (family groups SD) all moving through that space, saturating the air more with potential virus particles?

And masks... no hearing impaired who rely on lip reading unless you have clear masks for everyone. Who supplies the masks? How many per day per person? Who’s teaching how to properly put on and take off contaminating surfaces? How log can you go without a mask if exchanging one? Will there be biohazard containers every where to properly dispose of them? In Florida heat and humidity and frequent rain how compliant are people going to be? How will encouraging hydration work with mask wearing? My allergies are currently acting up and I’ve been sneezing almost nonstop for several minutes- I’d prefer to be able to blow my nose vs continually sneezing into a mask and inhaling mucous (gross yes but in a required mask at all times scenario it will happen).

Frankly I’d not want to go AT ALL if any of these measures were in place (other than hand washing/sanitizer stations).


Well-Known Member
In the mens common bathrooms in the parks and resorts, the urinals are not spaced 6 feet apart. Prior to departing the restroom, a good soap and water rinse of your hands, arms and probably face can help clean off the germs.


Well-Known Member
If social distancing won't work, perhaps we just need to keep track of every guest's health in realtime. Instead of temperature checks at all major points, we need something that a guest wears that constantly monitors their temperature. Probably not a magic band - maybe something worn on the head like the combo mouse ears / face masks. When a fever is spiked, the mouse ear alarm goes off and your favorite Disney villain materializes to whisk you off to a "cooling room", where you listen to the recitation of US leaders from the Hall of Presidents on a loop until you are sufficiently sublimated and you are allowed to return to your day. ;)


Well-Known Member
I believe that Disney accounting has a "break-even" number of paying guests that must enter the park each day for the daily overhead costs to be covered (salaries, utilities, etc.). And, I just cannot imagine that they would be anywhere close to that minimum with social distancing in place.

OTOH, would it be better financially to be completely closed with no revenue, or at least have some revenue coming in?

I think management at every tourist attraction (zoos, aquariums, theme parks, etc.) is pondering the question of how to re-open, and if it even makes sense to re-open, should social distancing be required.
Break even as one example if business is slower than usual is less staffing needed which means some will not be working.


Well-Known Member
Do you really think people at WDW will observe social distancing, there are way to many people out there that think rules don't apply to them. I'd love to go to WDW but I'll wait until the the first wave of lab rats go to WDW and see what the outcome is
I think that way buying a new model car. Let the new customers deal with the kinks and possible recalls. I will buy next year if all is good.
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