Thursday, April 9, 2020

Our Escape From 'Galaxy's Edge' @ Disney World Before The COVID-19 Shutdowns

Image result for brane-space, our escape from disney world

Image result for brane-space, our escape from disney world
Top: Part of crowd at  Galaxy's Edge area in Disney Hollywood Studios waiting to get into the popular 'Rise of The Resistance'  (Star Wars) ride.  Bottom, yours truly near Millennium Falcon model, about to enter Smugglers' Run ride.

Our Trip to Disney World in February (11-16) came just as the coronavirus scare was heating up in the media and in U.S. health centers. Also after Trump was given an intel heads up (from the Defense Intelligence Agency or DIA among others) about a "potentially calamitous pandemic". I.e.

"National Security Council officials received the warnings in early January about the potential dangers from a new virus in Wuhan, China.  The State Department’s epidemiologist warned early that the virus could develop into a pandemic, while the National Center for Medical Intelligence, a small outpost of the Defense Intelligence Agency, reached the same conclusion."

But the ignorant buffoon-  still smarting from his deserved  impeachment-   dismissed it, then proceeded to downplay its severity, i.e. "It's no worse than the flu" after referring to a "democratic hoax" for 2 weeks.

Close to this time, after Dotard finally awakened,  he imposed travel restrictions on China, but forgot all about the threat from Europe- which is now believed to have triggered the wave of infections in New York, e.g. NY Times:

"New research indicates that the coronavirus began to circulate in the New York area by mid-February, weeks before the first confirmed case, and that it was brought to the region mainly by travelers from Europe, not Asia."  'The majority is clearly European,” said Harm van Bakel, a geneticist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who co-wrote a study awaiting peer review.

A separate team at  the N.Y.U.  Grossman School of Medicine came to strikingly similar conclusions, despite studying a different group of cases. Both teams analyzed genomes from coronaviruses taken from New Yorkers starting in mid-March.

The research revealed a previously hidden spread of the virus that might have been detected if aggressive testing programs had been put in place"

Had Dotard  and his feeble, feckless administration had tests ready for the incoming European travelers-  as well as U.S. students returning home-   New York might gave been spared thousands of unnecessary, horrific deaths - now much worse than suffered  in 9/11.  Certainly similar travel restrictions to what were applied to China would have helped.

We knew  at the time we left for Orlando (actually, on Feb. 7)  it was more serious than the idiot occupying the WH made it out to be, but also we realized we could not pass up the chance to meet with cousins for this long planned family reunion. Indeed,there was little of note regarding any risks mentioned in the media, though we were aware New Orleans' Mardi Gras would be going on a week after we'd be coming back to Colorado. (It's now believed the New Orleans' severe outbreak was triggered by the Mardi Gras crowds)

The main purpose of our trip was to attend a cousins' reunion in Orlando proper, with more than 18 cousins and spouses (and children) from my mom's side of the family - some of whom I hadn't seen in over 40 years.  However, given the three day duration of the actual reunion (in a succession of events, e.g. dinners, barbecue) we opted to add on a week at DisneyWorld - staying at the unique Animal Kingdom Lodge.  One big reason for this add-on excursion was  to experience the new Star Wars and Avatar rides, attractions.  We also looked forward to being in a lodge where one had close access to an array of African animals populating an expansive, grassy savannah.  These included: giraffes, Zebras, Thompson's Gazelles, Wildebeest,   Waterbuck, Vultures, etc., each of which we could see from our balcony.

We'd heard from Disney agents that we needed to plan ahead for seeing most of the attractions, especially the new rides, the "Rise of the Rebellion" at  the Galaxy's Edge in Hollywood Studios, as well as the new "Smugglers' run" ride.  We also wanted to go on two new "Avatar"-based  rides at the Animal Kingdom.  We got the fast passes for nearly all the rides, attractions but at the time couldn't get any for the Rise of the Rebellion - the most popular ride. (Disney customer agents said the fast passes for that ride would not be available until Feb. 16th -the day we were to fly back to Denver.)

So we decided to bite the bullet and just get up as early as possible on the morning of  February 12th, to get to that Star Wars-based virtual reality experience and ride.  Instead of trusting a bus (making other stops),  we hired a taxi at 5:45 a.m.  and got to Hollywood Studios at 6:15 a.m.  Even so, the crowd gathered at the entrance was mind- boggling, easily in the thousands. Fortunately, Disney opened the gates at 7:00 a.m. and after a security check the visitors swarmed in. We then had to reach the Star Wars "Galaxy's Edge" area for the actual ride.  

We were informed that in order to get on the ride we had to get access to a numbered "Boarding Group"  and that meant hitting the right  cell phone access button for the special app exactly at 8:00 a.m. (or as close to the time as possible). When the time came, Janice had her finger ready - but the connection failed at 7:59 a.m.  So we were stuck without getting on, after all the early effort- and bummed out - worse because we had skipped a breakfast. So we hiked out of the area to grab some eats (bananas, muffins, coffee) at an outdoor cafe before returning and having more luck with the new Smuggler's run ride.

The size of the crowd preparatory to boarding group access - as seen from the top image- was already incredible, with thousands of wannabe Star travelers cheek to jowl. We  both speculated that the reason for the cell dropout at the absolute wrong time was thousands trying to gain access at once. Too much competition and our fingers weren't fast enough.*  Looking back now, it would have been a perfect venue and time for the COVID-19 to spread, given zero social distancing. I guess you could say we were lucky as the spreading virus had not hit Florida yet, though some ten days later a visitor from LA was reported to have come then returned to California where he died of severe respiratory symptoms. 

Barely a month later (March 16) Disney closed all its theme parks worldwide, and we learned from a WSJ report (April 2, Disney to Furlough Employees Across All U.S. Divisions)

That U.S. employees would be furloughed out of 222,000 worldwide.  Nonessential workers wold be furloughed from April 19th "making them eligible for compensation passed in the recent stimulus package."   According to the same piece, the shutdown of Disney theme parks only came "amid calls to socially distance from other people".  Based on what we saw from the days we went to the parks, we can attest that the crowds were phenomenal.  Social distancing, especially at any restaurants, was impossible, but then it had not become an imperative at the time we were there in February.

On reaching Denver and hearing the news of impending spread of the virus, then erupting by early March, Janice wasted no time in stocking up on provisions: canned tuna, canned salmon, batches of Basmati rice, beans and more beans, Spam, canned veggies....and toilet paper. She managed to get all that  at a Colorado Springs Costco before the panic buying began a few days later- with store shelves rendered bare and people getting increasingly unnerved.

Looking back, we count ourselves lucky we planned for the trip and went when we did.  This was mere weeks before airlines severely cut back on flights and the social distancing meme assumed the gravity of a mandate.  As far as we know all the cousins got back to their respective homes safe and sound and are hunkered down like we are now - enjoying their photos & videos of the reunion. 

As for the Disney World rides  and attractions we understand from the WSJ piece they are shut down indefinitely.  Doesn't matter, both Janice and I got to be kids again and enjoyed the rides just like the kids, dodging the COVID-19  bullet by a mouse's whisker.
* Janice did return to the park later in the evening as part of boarding group 109 - the last for the day (as per a message relayed to her cell at 6:15 p.m. while we were dining in the Lodge club area). I told her to go ahead as I wasn't able. (I had been walking the whole way around the park -  12 odd  miles by my estimate-  while Janice was using a small electric scooter or ECV (electrical conveyance vehicle) -  designed  for older visitors.

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Darrin Rychlak said...

We saw this virus tearing through country after country. The GOP, FOX, and trump identified the virus as a democratic hoax hysterically and malignantly used as a club on a president just trying to do the best job he could. Then when the virus could not be marginalized any longer, trump blamed the states, governors, Chinese, and democrats for the US's botched response and resultant carnage. 'Who could have seen this coming?' Considering trump was briefed in December of '19, January of '20, Feb of '20 and on and on, I'd say the president is disingenuous with his bewilderment.

All that being said, trump did exactly as his moneyed owners wanted: 'Don't rock the boat, wait and see the effect. Why we might not have to do anything and business can roll in as normal.'

I work for an essential industry--banking. The wait-and-see approach was the norm. My ER did nothing to address the virus until March 3--almost in sync w/ the GOP/President. Practically all the employees ignored the company directive to practice safe spacing. Now everyone is working remotely...the workforce of which I am a part was unduly exposed to risk of life and lung just to maintain and increase shareholder value.

And now we have the lamentations from the GOP that if only older Americans ignored the spacing rules and went back to work to save trump's collapsed economy, then their sacrifice of life and lung would not be in vain. The USA was established for rich white guys and our values have not changed.

It's good to see you're still publishing this blog. I have some back-reading. I always enjoy your work. Stay healthy, Darrin

Copernicus said...

Thanks, Darrin! Also, your further insights into the warp and woof of what's going on are always welcome.