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Florida’s Popular Theme Parks Consider How to Reopen


FILE - In this Monday, March 16, 2020, file photo, the road to the entrance of Walt Disney World has few cars, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Two more unions have reached agreements with Walt Disney World over furloughs caused by the theme park resort's closure. (AP)
Florida’s Popular Theme Parks Consider How to Reopen
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The American state of Florida has some of the most-visited theme parks in the world. Millions of people go there for vacation every year.

Florida’s theme parks are among the biggest economic engines in the state. But the parks have closed because of the coronavirus crisis. Thousands of workers have been told to stay at home and are not being paid.

Theme park operators are now weighing the issue of public safety and business interests as they try to decide when to reopen.

John Sprouls is the chief administrative officer for Universal Orlando Resort, which includes Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Island Adventure. He told The Associated Press (AP) he has many teams working on when and how to open the theme parks to visitors.

Sprouls spoke after three days of meetings with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s Reopen Florida Task Force. The governor appointed a group of industry representatives, education leaders and government officials to the task force. He has asked them to decide on the best way to reopen the state for business.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis puts on a protective face mask during a news conference at the Urban League of Broward County, during the new coronavirus pandemic, Friday, April 17, 2020, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis puts on a protective face mask during a news conference at the Urban League of Broward County, during the new coronavirus pandemic, Friday, April 17, 2020, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)


The task force’s members have been exchanging ideas through telephone conference calls. The AP said the meetings were generally lacking in specific details.

DeSantis announced recently that Florida had “flattened the curve” in its fight against the coronavirus. That expression describes efforts to reduce the sharp increase in infections through hand washing, social distancing and staying at home.

Speaking to a working group on agriculture and healthcare, the governor said Florida had comparatively fewer hospital stays and deaths than states in the Northeast.

“People were talking about Florida being the next Italy or New York,” DeSantis said.

Universal’s Sprouls spoke at a working group dealing with tourism and the state’s other major industries. He said Florida’s theme parks will have to reopen with small, limited crowds. He noted that fully reopening the parks could take time. He also said that any decision would be guided by state and local officials and by health considerations.

FILE - In this Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015, file photo, park guests relax at Universal Studios City Walk in Orlando, Fla.
FILE - In this Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015, file photo, park guests relax at Universal Studios City Walk in Orlando, Fla.


The Themed Entertainment Association reports that about 85 million people visited theme parks in and around Orlando and the city of Tampa in 2018. Those are the latest numbers available.

Under normal conditions, theme parks are not just fun rides, but hotels, eateries, stores and television and film production centers. All these activities and businesses have different requirements to operate safely in order to contain the virus.

For example, long lines form as people wait around to get on theme park rides. This makes enforcement of social distancing guidelines difficult. Sprouls has suggested that, for a time, every other seat on rides might be left open to increase the space between people. However, questions such as how often rides will be cleaned remain.

The closure of central Florida’s theme parks has temporarily left tens of thousands of workers without a job. Disney World recently began furloughing 43,000 workers.

Sea World has done the same with 95 percent of its workers in more than 10 major parks it operates across the United States. Sea World also recently announced that it is losing $25 million a month because of the closure. However, the company said it can find enough money to survive until the end of 2021 under current conditions.

I’m Mario Ritter, Jr.

Bobby Caina Calvan and Terry Spencer reported this story for the Associated Press. Mario Ritter Jr. adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

theme park – n. a business that offers a mix of activities, such as rides and games, in addition to shows and other events.

specificadj. clearly identified or defined

tourism – n. describing the activity of traveling to a place for pleasure; the business of providing services to people on such trips

furlough(ing)v. a temporary dismissal or release from a place of employment

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