Orange County

Looking back: Walt Disney World shuts down a year ago today, impacting Central Florida economy

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — A year ago on Tuesday, the magic disappeared.

Walt Disney World closed its doors on March 16, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hotels followed on March 20.

The closure resulted in a major blow to Central Florida’s economy.

READ: Disney World officially notifies more than 11,300 employees that they’ll be laid off this year

About a month later, Disney announced it would furlough “employees whose jobs aren’t necessary at this time” beginning April 19, a company spokesperson said.

But eventually, the magic came back.

On July 11, Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom reopened to the public.

READ: ‘We’re ready for this new world’: Walt Disney World reopens two parks amid pandemic

EPCOT and Hollywood Studios reopened July 15.

The parks reopened with new guidelines that adhere to CDC protocols including required face coverings, limited capacity and social distancing.

READ: New MagicMobile service will allow Disney guests to use smart devices like MagicBand

Still, the impact of the closure has been long-lasting.

Disney filed paperwork in October confirming that 11,350 of its union employees would be laid off by the end of the year. Most of them were employees at the theme parks.

READ: Another 4K Disney workers to lose jobs amid pandemic

In November, Disney filed documents saying that it was increasing its layoffs from 28,000 employees to 32,000 employees companywide in 2021.

Disney is the world’s largest single-site employer with more than 75,000 people working for the company in Central Florida.

Click here to read about what Disney has in store for 2021.

Adam Poulisse,

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.