In a sign that the tourism industry as a whole is finally getting off the canvas after a solid punch from the coronavirus pandemic, Walt Disney World and SeaWorld officials are expected to present their plans for reopening their parks today to the Orange County Economic Task Force. That group meets at 10 a.m.
Universal Orlando already submitted its plans, which in a nutshell called for all guests and employees to wear masks in the parks, temperature checks in the parking garages, hand washing and sanitizer stations through the parks, social distancing and parks operating at around 25 percent. Universal plans to welcome back employees for screening Monday and Tuesday of next week, allow annual passholders to preview the changes Wednesday and Thursday and a general re-opening on June 5.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said Tuesday afternoon that Disney and SeaWorld’s plans will be similar. They’ve been closed since mid-March, or for going on 10 weeks now. He noted that parks need to have signs in multiple foreign languages to remind foreign guests of sanitation and social distancing guidelines. Shanghai Disneyland opened two weeks ago at reduced capacity with everyone in the park in masks. There’s been little word about the success (or failure) of that opening plan, or if it’s sparked a spike in COVID-19 cases.
SeaWorld CEO Marc Swanson told Vice President Mike Pence, when he visited last week, he’d like for his parks to re-open sometime in June. Last week, drivers on International Drive reportedly saw riders on one of the SeaWorld Orlando roller coasters, taking up every other row and wearing masks, possibly to see if the masks stayed on during the ride.
Demings must sign off on all re-opening plans, then pass them on to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his approval. All attractions thus far, including Universal and smaller attractions like Gatorland, ICON Park and Fun Spot’s Orlando and Kissimmee parks, have gotten those blessings to open, and slowly return the area’s tourism industry back to the “new normal”.