More than a month after the first major theme parks in Orlando began welcoming back guests, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said there’s no indication that the reopened parks caused an increase in COVID-19 cases.
“Given the theme parks that opened prior to Disney, we have not been able to see any type of outbreaks associated with those parks,” Demings said at a Monday press conference. “For me, if there’s one place on planet Earth where we should be successful, it’s at Disney.”
Disney World theme parks began reopening on July 11 with operations dramatically altered from the pre-pandemic norm. Besides limiting capacity inside the park, face masks are required, physical distancing is encouraged throughout the park and on the rides while guests will find plexiglass barriers throughout queues to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Some Disney fans and bloggers cried foul on Twitter as to what they saw as unfair media coverage of Disney World’s reopening, noting that local rivals Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando opened a month earlier.
But the reality is Disney World is welcoming back tens of thousands of employees and guests amid a very active outbreak in Central Florida.
Orange County reported 1,353 new cases on Sunday and 924 cases on Monday, with rates of positive COVID-19 tests at 10 percent and 10.7 percent, respectively. The World Health Organization recommends a positivity rate of less than 5 percent as a benchmark to ensure enough testing is being conducted and to properly gauge how the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Demings was asked if Orange County would consider asking Disney World to close again given the local COVID-19 surge. He said that if hospitals are reaching capacity and “there are outbreaks associated with Disney, we won’t hesitate to ask Disney to re-evaluate the reopening.”
Hong Kong Disneyland became the first Disney theme park to shut down again after reopening due to a second spike in COVID-19 cases. In Hong Kong’s case, the city has reported more than 180 locally-contracted cases since July 5, a fraction of the new case counts reported daily in Orange County, Florida.
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