Disney Floats the Idea of Taking Temperature Checks at Parks — Could It Work?

A Mickey Mouse-themed Disney ride. (photo: Daniela Araya)
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A Mickey Mouse-themed Disney ride. (photo: Daniela Araya)
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A section of a Disney amusement park stands idle (photo: Daniela Araya)

In a recent interview, Bob Iger spoke of his long-term vision for reopening Disney’s beloved theme parks, all of which are closed because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

Iger’s comments touched on a number of interesting topics, including pre-entry temperature checks as a means of resuming (mostly) normal Disney theme-park operations before the pandemic passes entirely.  The biggest question surrounding this preventative measure (and the corresponding reopening) is straightforward enough: Can it work?

Before digging into the inquiry, it’s worth reiterating the matter’s considerable economic stakes. Crowd-based entertainment and leisure businesses, from theme parks to restaurants and many in-between, are struggling to cope with government-mandated steps designed to curb the coronavirus’s spread.

Yesterday, Digital Music News was the first to report that the concert industry could experience losses of as much as $8.9 billion in 2020, depending upon how long it takes for the coronavirus pandemic to subside.

These points mean that immediate employees—theme-park staff, servers and cooks, and live-event crews, to name just some—are without steady paychecks. But broader fiscal implications—the loss of revenue for merchandise manufacturers, all manner of sub-contractors, and food distributors, once again to name just some—are also significant.

And so, for multiple reasons, it’s imperative that the live-event sphere and the economy reopen as quickly as possible. Of course, rushing the process or failing to implement safety measures could cost additional lives, and a balance must be struck between expediency and caution. Iger’s suggested temperature checks (along with presumed disinfections) are a perfect example of this balance.

These temperature checks would expectedly stop some COVID-19 sufferers from entering Disney parks (and other crowd-based businesses and functions), and the test’s speed and affordability are decidedly positive.

Even with comprehensive disinfection efforts, however, the initiative probably wouldn’t be entirely effective unless complemented by proactive at-home coronavirus testing.

Several medical professionals and researchers have determined that a large portion of novel coronavirus carriers are asymptomatic—in terms of temperature and otherwise—but are still capable of spreading the disease to those who will experience serious health complications. (Scientists are also studying the variance in individual COVID-19 reactions, with an emphasis on genetic traits and DNA.)

Plus, crowd-based business entities will have to confront other coronavirus risks. Even if logistically workable, testing everyone who intends to patronize a restaurant, enjoy a theme park, or attend a concert is unlikely to halt COVID-19’s spread, given the present accuracy of tests. Experts anticipate that approximately one-third of novel coronavirus sufferers are receiving negative test results, though the figure will likely improve once newly developed tests are more widely distributed.

Additionally, COVID-19 can survive for roughly two days on clothing and longer on other surfaces.

Nevertheless, Disney’s prospective temperature checks represent a major step in the right direction—and one that the concert industry can also benefit from. In coordination with an ongoing (and much-needed) increase in the manufacturing of coronavirus test kits, this plan of action could serve as the foundation for entertainment’s eventual return to normalcy.