Although Disney World reopened over the weekend in Florida, Hong Kong Disneyland is closing its gates again. On Monday, CNN reported that the Hong Kong park was clamping down after a recent spike of 52 new cases of coronavirus in the city. Contrast this with Disney World stateside, which reopened amid Florida becoming an international coronavirus epicenter, adding 15,299 new cases on Sunday — the highest single-day total reported for any state thus far.
A Disney spokesperson told CNN: “As required by the government and health authorities in line with prevention efforts taking place across Hong Kong, Hong Kong Disneyland park will temporarily close from July 15.” While the plan is for a temporary park closure, hotels at the Hong Kong Disneyland resort will remain open.
Leading up to its dystopian reopening, Disney World released a safety promo video that could’ve been lifted straight from a Paul Verhoeven movie. Dipping heavily into pathos, Disney has blended wistful images of empty theme park rides with the upbeat optimism of masked employees — many of whom will face the greatest risk of infection — working diligently to prepare enhanced sanitation measures. The parks have implemented cute punitive measures, like not allowing guests to purchase photos if their masks are pulled down, keeping with their suppression of unsafe behavior on rides.
Dispatches from the first weekend back at Disney painted a strange dissonance between the horrors playing out in hospitals across the country and rapturous reactions from park-goers. The New York Times published a story documenting the opening weekend — with somewhat restrictive access, after Disney retracted credentials for a Times photographer on Friday. There’s been much talk about Disney Adults over the past several days, and the reporter Brooks Barnes spoke with an especially effusive 45-year-old who’d flown to Orlando from Alabama with some friends.
“I’m so overwhelmed with emotion,” a weeping Ms. Little said, as she stood on Main Street USA wearing Minnie Mouse ears. “The last few months have been so hard. We have just felt so defeated. Being here gives me the strength to go on.”
It feels like an important distinction that the Hong Kong government, not Disney, made the decision to close Disneyland indefinitely in response to rising case counts. The same profit-hungry company is behind both parks, with the only difference being a proactive governmental approach to managing the virus with a lower new case threshold instead of the no-holds-barred sadism on display in the United States.
Earlier in the pandemic, it was reasonable to expect that countries experiencing outbreaks before the U.S. — and beginning their recovery from those outbreaks — would serve as a preview of sorts. The empty venue livestreams and lockdowns in Wuhan ultimately came to predict the early months of pandemic life in the United States, if only on an advanced timetable. Instead, we’ve mostly just abandoned those early directives and moved at our own destructive pace.
Much like Hong Kong closing schools again with minor increases in case count, as the Trump administration intends to strongarm schools into reopening despite record single-day totals, it’s clear that the sole precedent we’re following is American exceptionalism. Every indication from beyond our borders indicates that prematurely chasing a return to normalcy is the most destructive path forward, and yet it’s the only policy on the table.