Florida Governor Outlines Next Steps In Theme Parks’ Reopening Path
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday outlined what may be the next steps on the path to reopen the state’s theme parks including Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort.
In a press conference, DeSantis called on park operators to submit their reopening plans to the state, adding that they would “need to have an endorsement of the relative official in their locality — Orange County mayor, wherever you’re talking about,” he said.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings told local media later in the day that he has not received any reopening plans from the parks, and that he doesn’t expect any reopenings until June at the earliest.
“They should identify the date certain that they believe that they can resume safe operations,” DeSantis said of the park operators. “They have to provide how they’re going to do it, how they’re going to accommodate the guests, how they’re going to protect the staff…”
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At the end of April, an Orange County Economic Task Force that includes representatives from both Disney and Universal issued preliminary guidelines as the state considers a phased approach to reopening the parks. Among the recommendations: larger theme parks will operate at 50% capacity during a Phase 1 period, and could increase to 75% capacity in Phase 2. All employees would be required to wear facemasks; there will be touchless hand sanitizer at each ticketing entry and turnstile, and at each ride/attraction entry and exit; there will be temperature checks for staff prior to their shifts; as well as a regular wipe-down of all railing and surfaces. Any staff member age 65 and above will be encouraged to stay home.
The two major parks have been closed since mid-March because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with the majority of their employees seeing pay cuts or furloughs. Disney said the estimated COVID-19 impact on the company’s second-quarter operating income at its Parks, Experiences and Products segment was about $1 billion.
Disney reopened its Shanghai Disneyland this week after it had been the first to close in January as the coronavirus outbreak was escalating. In the U.S., its Disney Springs in Orlando will reopen next week. Disneyland in Anaheim remains closed.
Universal Orlando remains closed but its adjacent CityWalk venues reopened Thursday.
“My goal in all this is let’s keep safety first, but let’s work and innovate to get to ‘yes’ on this stuff,” DeSantis continued today as he unveiled wider plans for Florida to complete phase 1 of its reopening plan. ‘I can’t tell you when this is gonna be, but I think that we need to say come up with your plan, show us what you got, work with your local officials, and then we’ll see what we can do.”
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