Florida Governor Touts Safety at Theme Parks Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held a roundtable discussion Wednesday about the state’s theme parks as they continue their recovery amid the coronavirus pandemic.

DeSantis held the discussion at Universal Studios with executives from the major central Florida parks.

The governor spoke about the recent positive trends in COVID-19 in the state, particularly since the theme parks began to reopen.

“We’ve seen declines in all the key metrics since the middle of July. I think that’s a testament to the lengths that they’ve gone at these parks to create safe environments,” DeSantis said. “I think that if you look, I can show you examples of outbreaks being in certain areas, you haven’t seen these parks being major drivers of that and I think it’s because they’re really going the extra mile.”

Universal Orlando closed its doors in mid-March as the novel coronavirus started spreading in the U.S. It was the first of Orlando’s major theme park operators to reopen when it welcomed back visitors in early June. SeaWorld reopened in late June, and Walt Disney World welcomed back visitors in July.

All of the parks have new rules meant to limit the spread of the virus. Guests and workers must have their temperatures checked and wear masks. Attendance has been limited to allow for social distancing in the parks.

Despite reopening, the theme parks have struggled to fully recover from the closures caused by the pandemic.

Universal Orlando announced an undisclosed number of layoffs earlier this month and put the construction of a new theme park, Epic Universe, on pause because of the pandemic.

Comcast, Universal Orlando’s owner, reported that the company’s theme parks division shrank to $87 million in revenue from $1.46 billion a year ago.

Disney World, one of the state’s largest employers with a 77,000-person workforce, had been embroiled in a fight over COVID-19 testing with the union for its actors and singers before reaching an agreement earlier this month.

A state-run drive-thru COVID-19 testing site for workers and the public was set up at the theme park resort, but Disney said allowing the testing site was unrelated to negotiations with the union.

DeSantis said that between March 1 and June 30, there was a 67% decrease in people visiting Orlando year over year. There was a 75% decrease in room demand over the same period, DeSantis said.

The governor added that many of the parks have brought back over 90% of their full-time employees.

Universal Orlando is owned by Comcast and NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC and WTVJ-TV.