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.
Floridas 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 chief administrative officer of Universal Orlando Resort, which includes Universal Studios Florida and Universals 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 DeSantiss 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.
The task forces 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.
Universals Sprouls spoke at a working group dealing with tourism and the states other major industries.He said Floridas 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.
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 Floridas 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.
Im Mario Ritter, Jr.