As we reported last week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis established a Re-Open Florida Task Force to lay the groundwork for how to open the state. Its first step, Phase 1, began on Monday, May 4th, and included the first, small steps for Florida to get to its “new normal,” including mandates for opening restaurants, retail stores, etc.
Besides the large, statewide task force, he also established a subcommittee, the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force, that would outline how businesses related to tourism could eventually reopen. Click here to see both what Phase 1 of the state reopening, and the basic guidelines of the theme parks reopening, are.
On May 4th, the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force subcommittee had another meeting to discuss the opening of the tourist corridor of Central Florida.
The video of the 38 minute-long meeting can be found here.
They start talking about the large theme parks (Disney, Universal and SeaWorld) at the 30:09 point.
Chuck Whitall, who is President of Unicorp National Development, is the subcommittee leader for the task force. He asked the theme park representatives if they had any idea of when the theme parks would reopen. He said that Universal had, at one time, mentioned June 1st and that one could book rooms at Walt Disney World from June 1st onward, so did they have any potential reopening dates for the parks?
Thomas Mazloum, Senior Vice President of Walt Disney World Resort & Transportation Operations appeared to be reading a script as he replied:
We do not have any opening date yet. Some of you may know we… (pause) At this point, we’re taking bookings that were in June. That doesn’t mean that we’re opening in June. At this time, I just want to make it clear that we do not have any plans to share about Walt Disney World or, for that matter, any of our other parks at this point.
Rich Costales, Universal Orlando’s Executive Vice President of Resort Operations said roughly the same thing:
Quite a while ago, we did announce that we would be closed through May 31. And really, we haven’t made a decision as to when exactly we would open back up our theme parks and really can’t do that until we hear what government and health officials recommend and how this phasing will eventually roll out.
A representative for SeaWorld echoed their sentiments in his statement.
Whithall made a point to remind the theme park representatives that many small vendors were depending on the theme parks to open. But that he understood their respective re-opening would be data-driven, not date driven. But for them to remember that they were vital to the local economy and everyone is hoping it will be in the near further rather than the far off future.
Yes, Mr. Whithall, we get it. Your mouth says their decision to open is data-driven, but between the lines is a whole different ballgame. #rolleyes
So anyway, although Walt Disney World and Universal are taking reservations for June 1st onward, there is no indication that either, or SeaWorld, will open on June 1st. Or in the month of June, period.
We’ll all still have to wait and see.
My take on this
The theme parks, of course, are excellent at holding their cards close to their chest; they’re not going to tell anybody anything until they’re good and ready, regardless of what the subcommittee leader, Governor, local businesses or even their employees or guests want to know.
The population at large has already proven that they either don’t understand or don’t care about social distancing or wearing masks as a way to help stop themselves and others from potentially getting sick. Yet depending on which study you read, anywhere from 4% to 80% of people who test positive for coronavirus show no symptoms at the time of testing. That means multiple people at the parks – who might not be social distancing or wearing masks – could be positive for, and able to transmit coronavirus to others, and no one, including them, would have a clue.
Think about how potentially dangerous that is.
The last thing WDW, Universal or SeaWorld needs is for a bunch of people to go to the parks, with a certain percentage of them positive for COVID-19 and not knowing it. Say they refuse to wear masks (“Too hot, can’t breathe in them!”) and they’re not particularly as good with social distancing or handwashing as they could be. Now say that 5 to 14 days later, a few hundred or a few thousand people who all went to the parks on the same days as those people all wind up with coronavirus. And now say our government gets their act together well enough to do adequate contact tracing to discover the one thing they all had in common was the theme parks.
That would be a PR nightmare.
I understand everyone wanting them to reopen ASAP. Local businesses rely on the crowds from large theme parks for them to make their living. Their employees depend on them for a paycheck. Their customers want to have fun on vacation there.
I suspect none of that is worth the risk to them right now. Definitely not on the very first day of Phase 1, anyway.
#stayhealthy #staysafe #washyourhands
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary