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As Florida continues to set new daily records for COVID-19 cases in the state, Disney World forged ahead with reopening plans for its theme parks Saturday, where guests were required to adhere to new coronavirus safety measures.
Photos show dozens of visitors lining up outside Disney's Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom parks, both of which reopened Saturday. Epcot and Hollywood Studios are scheduled to reopen on July 15.
Jim MacPhee, senior vice president of operations, announced in late May that parks at the flagship Disney resort in Orlando were set for a phased reopening beginning July 11.
Those plans did not change even as COVID-19 case counts climbed each day and hospitalizations increased, and Florida is now among a handful of states being hit hardest by the virus.
There has been massive apprehension from public health experts over Disney World's reopening as the state reports a continued surge in new cases and deaths.
Florida has 254,511 COVID-19 cases to date and 4,197 deaths. And hospitals are nearing their breaking point, with state data showing coronavirus hospitalizations on the rise and almost half the ICUs in the state at least 90% capacity.
State officials reported 10,383 new cases on Saturday, the second-highest number of daily cases so far.
On Saturday, an official Disney Parks Twitter account posted a video welcoming visitors back to its parks, featuring different groups of cast members and employees saying "welcome home" to soaring music in the background.
The video was widely panned as "dystopian," with many pointing out that Florida has recorded its highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in recent weeks. The account deleted the tweet hours later.
Disney World shut down operations in mid-March as the pandemic swept the country, and visitors were told to expect a markedly different experience after reopening.
New reopening safety measures now require guests to make a reservation for entry ahead of time, social distance in the parks, and wear masks. Park capacities will also be limited, and parades, fireworks, and character meet and greets are temporarily on pause.