Orange County, Florida has sent inspectors to Orlando theme parks this week to see if the parks are complying with local orders requiring physical distancing and face masks in public areas.
Theme Park Tribune has learned that employees from the county’s fire, health and code enforcement departments — dubbed the “Orange County Business Compliance Assistance Team” — visited SeaWorld Orlando and Aquatica Orlando on Wednesday.
The team found that both parks were in compliance with county orders aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19.
The compliance documents provided by the county do not go into detail about the parks’ performance, only checking off a box that says “in compliance.” Had they failed, the county would have marked the reasons why, such as not enforcing face covering requirements or not having appropriate signage to remind guests of physical distancing rules.
According to Orange County, the parks did not know about the inspections beforehand.
“Strike Team visits are unannounced, but I can tell you that they are planning to inspect the other large theme parks in the very near future,” Orange County spokesperson Despina McLaughlin told Theme Park Tribune.
In an emailed statement to Theme Park Tribune, SeaWorld spokesperson Lori Cherry said:
“At SeaWorld, we are committed to the health & safety of our employees, guests, and the animals in our care. The changes we have made to almost every aspect of our park operations to enhance our already strict standards – from increasing sanitation across the parks to significantly limiting capacity in our parks and enforcing new physical distancing requirements to requiring temperature checks and facial coverings – have allowed us to create a safe environment for our guests and employees while still providing them with fun and memorable experiences. We thank the Orange County Business Compliance Assistance Team, Florida Department of Health, and Mayor Demings for doing their due diligence and for all their efforts and hard work to keep Orlando safe.”
Last month, Theme Park Tribune reported on a series of inspections at Fun Spot America’s Orlando location. These reports, conducted by a company which sends “secret shoppers” to evaluate businesses, found face mask requirements were not being enforced at the International Drive amusement park during a July visit.
Fun Spot owner John Arie has shared misinformation about face masks on his personal Facebook page while downplaying the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The county strike team has visited Fun Spot twice, finding both employees and guests not to be in compliance with face covering requirements on a July 14 visit. In a follow-up visit on Aug. 13, inspectors found employees were wearing masks, but some guests were not, which means Fun Spot will get another visit from the county.
“All non-compliant locations will be re-inspected for compliance in the future,” McLaughlin said.
These “strike team” inspections represent a change in government oversight for Orlando’s biggest theme parks.
While Fun Spot is subject to visits from Florida’s Bureau of Fair Rides Inspection, under state law, parks with more than 1,000 employees are exempt. Instead, those parks have to hire their own safety inspectors and report, on a quarterly basis, any injuries or incidents involving guests that require a 24-hour hospital stay.
This article was updated after its original publication with a statement from SeaWorld.
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