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Orlando Theme Parks During COVID-19

Orlando, Florida is home to Walt Disney World (which consists of four theme parks), Universal Orlando (two theme parks), SeaWorld (three theme parks), and LegoLand as well as a few lesser-known theme parks like Gator World. It is also located in Orange County where more than 55,000 people have contracted COVID-19 and more than 620 have died from it as of November 24th, 2020. With COVID-19 surging across the country right now, let’s take a look at Orlando theme parks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the parks are open, are they safe?

How Long Have Orlando Theme Parks Been Open Since COVID-19?

When Orlando reached Phase 2 of Florida’s Recovery Plan in June, theme parks began to reopen starting with LegoLand on June 1st. Universal Orlando reopened its three parks, Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay Water Park, on June 5th. SeaWorld was next, opening SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, and Aquatica on June 11th. Finally, DisneyWorld began reopening its four parks in phases from July 11th (Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom) through July 15th (Hollywood Studios and Epcot).

The United States is completely closed to international visitors right now. Florida does not currently have travel restrictions or quarantine requirements for visitors coming in from other states. Thus, families from across the United States, including in virus hot spots, can visit Orlando theme parks without having to quarantine or prove their health status with a negative COVID-19 test.

Theme Park COVID-19 Safety Measures

All of the parks have implemented a variety of park safety measures which include:

  • Face coverings (most parks require face coverings for guests over two or three years of age, but LegoLand only recommends them)
  • Reservations
  • Staggered parking in parking lots
  • Reduced capacity
  • Temperature checks
  • Cashless payments
  • Empty seats and rows on rides
  • Physical distancing
  • Floor markings to indicate safe distances
  • Elimination of single-rider lines
  • Reminders
  • Suspension of certain activities such as character meet-and-greets, parades, fireworks, and high-touch experiences
  • Suspension of “park hopping”
  • Frequent and increased cleaning / disinfecting / sanitizing
  • Hand sanitizer stations
  • “Virtual line” experiences
  • Mobile food and drink ordering
  • Signage

Theme parks have also implemented COVID safety measures for employees to follow. For example, Disney has added additional break rooms for cast members on break, distributed hand sanitizer bottles that attach to belts, reduced capacity on employee shuttle buses, and added clear partitions to separate Disney princesses riding in carriages from one another. Sick workers who must quarantine also receive paid time off.

COVID-19 Outbreaks at Orlando Theme Parks

According to an article on Bloomberg.com, Florida Reports Some Covid Cases Near Disney Theme Parks, there have been some COVID-19 cases at Orlando theme parks since the parks reopened. However, an exact count has not been provided by the state. The article mentioned a few isolated instances that included a family from Indiana, a construction worker who worked outside a theme park property, and some drivers from a transportation company serving the area.

It’s important to note that two of these three incidents involve COVID-19 cases that didn’t necessarily originate from within the park itself. Remember, Orlando’s theme parks are supported by an entire ecosystem that exists beyond the parks’ gates including: hotels, restaurants, car rental agencies, public transportation, airports, and other Orlando tourist destinations. With guests arriving from destinations far and wide, often without having to quarantine upon arrival, the potential for spreading COVID-19 from external hot spots to others working in, visiting, or traveling through Orlando airports, hotels and motels, restaurants, gift shops, and other businesses is high. Thus, the safety of theme parks extends to these other areas which all have specific risks of their own.

Guest safety appears to be well addressed in theme parks. The outdoor nature of these parks also appears to be helpful as coronavirus tends to disperse outdoors. It’s reassuring to see Disney princesses riding atop beautiful carriages carefully outfitted with plexiglass shields while cast members frequently disinfect high touch areas, but it’s just as important to consider the safety of everyone who supports the theme park ecosystem including housekeepers, cooks, servers, janitors, shuttle drivers, ride operators, desk clerks, office staff, animal caretakers, and more.

Until a vaccine is approved and widely distributed, Orlando theme parks and their surrounding ecosystems have the potential to infect guests and workers alike despite their precautions. Theme park and associated business operators have a duty of care to their guests and employees to take COVID-19 seriously, and if they don’t, they should be held accountable.

Leighton Law has litigated COVID-19 cases in Florida, representing COVID-19 patients who were negligently exposed to the virus. We have won millions of dollars of verdicts for our personal injury and wrongful death clients including some of the largest verdicts in Florida history. We have successfully tried cases against Disney and theme parks.

We all love a day out at the parks with our families. We want these parks to survive, but not at the expense of innocent lives. We urge anyone who attends or works at a theme park to follow all COVID-19 safety precautions before, during, and after your theme park adventure. We look forward to the day when we can let our guard down. Until that day arrives, please, stay safe.

Article by:

John Leighton

A nationally-recognized trial lawyer who handles catastrophic injury and death cases. He manages Leighton Law, P.A. trial lawyers, with offices in Miami and Orlando, Florida. He is President of The National Crime Victim Bar Association, author of the 2-volume textbook,Litigating Premises Security Cases, and past Chairman of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America’s Motor Vehicle, Highway & Premises Liability Section. Having won some of the largest verdicts in Florida history, Mr. Leighton is listed inThe Best Lawyers in America (14 years), “Top Lawyers” in the South Florida Legal Guide (15 years), Top 100 Florida SuperLawyer™ and Florida SuperLawyers (14 years), “Orlando Legal Elite” by Orlando Style magazine, and FloridaTrend magazine “Florida Legal Elite

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