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DeSantis Touts Florida Theme Park Reopenings As 'Success Story'

Theme Parks Reopening
John Raoux/AP
FILE—In this June 3, 2020 file photo, a Universal Studios employee takes the temperature of a guest entering the theme park in Orlando, Fla. Amusement parks of all sizes are adjusting everything from selling tickets to serving meals while trying to reassure the public and government leaders that they're safe to visit amid the coronavirus crisis and warnings against large gatherings. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

Governor Ron DeSantis joined executives from Florida theme parks Wednesday for a press conference to discuss the parks’ reopenings.

DeSantis kept his messaging message centered on how important the theme parks are to employment in the Orlando and Central Florida area. He pointed to a 67 percent decrease in tourists to Central Florida from last year as a sign of the ailing economy locally.

“Really, when you talk about these operations – hundreds of thousands of jobs that are connected to the operations here,” DeSantis said. “Yes, (the people) who Universal, Disney, Sea World actually employs, which is a lot of people, certainly tens of thousands for each company. But also for everything else they do, how that impacts the local economy.”

DeSantis says that “ripple effect” a he calls it, has an impact on small businesses in the area.

Victoria Espin is manager of attraction operations at Universal Orlando. She described how the park’s plan for providing visitor safety was put into action, and what the park-goer’s experience looks like right now.

You’re going to see attraction signage as soon as you walk into the queue, reminding you to socially distance, put on your mask,” Espin said, continuing to other safety measures found throughout the park: “You’re going to see the decal showing you where to stand while you’re waiting in line, you’re going to receive your hand sanitizer prior to boarding an attraction – and as soon as you get off, you’re going to see an A-frame showing you where the nearest restroom is, (making) sure we’re giving those friendly reminders to frequently wash your hands.”

The Governor called the reopening of the parks a “success story,” telling media their reopenings haven’t sent COVID-19 cases spiking.

“As Disney came online, Florida was at its apex in terms of coronavirus infections, and then it’s gone down,” the governor said. “We’ve seen declines in all the key metrics since the middle of July – so I think that’s testament to the lengths they’ve gone to at these parks to crate safe environments.

“If you look, I can show you examples of outbreaks being triggered in certain areas – you haven’t seen these parks bring major drivers of that, and I think it’s because they’re really going the extra mile.”

Universal and SeaWorld’s parks reopened in June, Disney’s reopened in July.