June 27

Coronavirus: Florida theme parks keep eye on virus as spring break nears

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — As Florida’s busy spring break season kicked off this month, coronavirus czar Vice President Mike Pence addressed something that’s been on the mind of tens of thousands of families preparing to travel to theme parks: Is it safe?

Over the weekend, Pence stressed it is safe for healthy Americans to travel, noting “one of our favorite places to go when my children were young and even before my children came was in Orlando.”

“Whether it be Disney World, whether it be other destination, whether it be cruise ships … those most at risk are seniors with serious or chronic underlying health conditions.”

“Otherwise Americans can confidently travel in this country,” Pence said at a meeting with cruise industry officials in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday.

Still, as COVID-19 concerns multiply, the issue weighs heavily in the tourism industry.

“There is definitely concern. Particularly how and when it could manifest itself in the U.S.,” said Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services Inc., an independent industry consultant.

He’s been watching the spread of the coronavirus for weeks, as theme parks in Asia have closed. He estimated the temporary closure of Disney parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong will cost the company anywhere from $175 million to $300 million dollars.

Coronavirus concerns have impacted the state’s cruise industry and convention business, but the theme parks have been spared so far, although that could change at any moment.

Orlando is the nation’s most visited tourist destination, bringing vast numbers of people from around the globe to its major theme parks, which also include Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando. The city attracted 75 million visitors in 2018.

Coronavirus cases: Coronavirus in Florida: State announces 8 new cases

As of Sunday, the city was at least 65 miles (105 kilometers) from the nearest person testing positive for coronavirus.

Though several conventions in Orlando have been canceled because of concerns, individual leisure travel hasn’t been affected, local officials said.

Jennifer Morales, a 47-year-old mother from San Antonio, said the outbreak hasn’t changed her plans for an eight-day Walt Disney World vacation with her daughter. She’s been to Disney World 20-plus times, and her daughter is in a marching band scheduled to be in a park parade. They leave Sunday.

“I don’t think it warrants canceling a vacation right now,” she said, adding that she’s more worried about sitting on a plane with people with colds and the flu. “I’m kind of a germaphobe. We all have our own personal hand sanitizers, We’re diligent about handwashing at the parks, especially after rides. Now we’ll spending a little extra time washing hands. I already travel with a small can of Lysol and hose everything down in our hotel rooms.”

The state draws hordes of college-age students and families with grade-school children during the spring break season, which begins in earnest in mid-March and runs into April. Cancellations could be devastating during one of the busiest times of the year in the Sunshine State.

Last week, five big conventions said they were cancelling their conferences in Orlando because of coronavirus concerns. Over the weekend, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that travelers defer all cruise travel, especially if they have underlying health issues.

The U.S. Travel Association on Tuesday predicted a 6% decline in international visitors to the U.S. over the next three months as a result of coronavirus. If the prediction holds, it would be the largest decline in international inbound travel since the recession a dozen years ago, the association said.

More on Coronavirus: Unlike the flu, coronavirus doesn’t have a season

Coronavirus fears hit Florida last week as Disney World opened a new ride based on Mickey Mouse, a park first. The resort’s most anticipated new land in years, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, debuted only last August.

If a Disney visitor shows coronavirus symptoms or first responders think they have the flu, both patient and paramedic will get a face mask, said Tim Stromsnes, president of the union local for firefighters at Disney World.

Speigel said parks and attractions likely will undergo “a lot of fumigation, disinfection, right now, not only in the front of the house, but the back of the house.”

Officials with Busch Gardens and SeaWorld didn’t respond to email inquiries about how the coronavirus had affected them.

Disney officials said in a statement that extra hand sanitizers were being placed throughout its four parks and more than two dozen hotels.

Tom Schroder, a spokesman for Universal Orlando, said it is reinforcing “best-practice health and hygiene procedures” in response to the coronavirus outbreak and adding more hand sanitizer units to its parks.

“We will continue to closely monitor the situation and be ready to act as needed,” he said.

Spiegel added that at many parks, deliveries will be scrutinized and workers will be retrained on cleanliness procedures. Parks may also restrict employee travel to higher-risk countries such as China, Italy and South Korea — a measure Legoland has already taken.

On Wednesday, the opening day of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, about 1,000 people were waiting to enter the park, said Kurt Schmidt, the owner of Inside the Magic, a massive online community and news site for Disney fans.

No one was wearing a mask, Schmidt said.

“From where I’m sitting, there’s absolutely no difference in how things feel,” he said. “I can’t see anything that is different.”

Lush reported from St. Petersburg, Florida.

The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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June 27

West Palm Beach to Walt Disney World

Flag of United States Orlando, United States

Orlando is a city in the U.S. state of Florida and the county seat of Orange County. Located in Central Florida, it is the center of the Orlando metropolitan area, which had a population of 2,509,831, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures released in July 2017. These figures make it the 23rd-largest metropolitan area in the United States, the sixth-largest metropolitan area in the Southern United States, and the third-largest metropolitan area in Florida. As of 2018, Orlando had an estimated city-proper population of 285,713, making it the 71st-largest city in the United States, the fourth-largest city in Florida, and the state’s largest inland city. – Wikipedia

Things to do in Orlando

  • Rollins College

    Rollins College is a private, coeducational liberal arts college, founded in 1885 and located in Winter Park, Florida along the shores of Lake Virginia. Rollins is a member of the SACS, NASM, ACS, FDE, AAM, AACSB International, Council for Accreditation of Counseling, and Related Educational Programs. Rollins has about 30 undergraduate majors and several graduate programs. It was ranked #2 Regional Universities, South by U.S. News & World Report in 2017. Rollins College has ranked among the most beautiful U.S. college campuses by the Princeton Review for the past decade, ranking #1 in 2015 and #10 most recently in 2017.

  • Universal Studios Florida

    Universal Studios Florida is a theme park located in Orlando, Florida. Opened on June 7, 1990, the park’s theme is the entertainment industry, in particular movies and television. Universal Studios Florida inspires its guests to “ride the movies”, and it features numerous attractions and live shows. The park is one component of the larger Universal Orlando Resort.

  • Harry P. Leu Gardens

    The Harry P. Leu Gardens are semi-tropical and tropical gardens in Orlando, Florida, United States. The gardens contain nearly 50 acre of landscaped grounds and lakes, with meandering trails shaded by 200-year-old oaks and forests of camellias. They are open to the public. The address is 1920 North Forest Avenue Orlando, FL 32803.

  • Lake Eola Park

    ] Lake Eola Park is a public park located in Downtown Orlando, Florida. Lake Eola is the main feature of the park. Also located in the park (on the west side) is the Walt Disney Amphitheater, which hosts many community events and various performances year round. On the east side of the park is a Chinese pagoda, and a playground. The park is surrounded by four streets: East Robinson Street (State Road 526), Rosalind Avenue (SR 527), East Central Boulevard, and North Eola Drive.

Places to stay in Orlando

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June 26

Disney World guest says she was forced to wear gift shop T-shirt

A Disney World visitor claims that park staff forced her to put on a gift shop T-shirt after informing her that her strappy, cropped top “isn’t appropriate.”

Alyssa Schueller recorded an incident at Epcot in Orlando, Florida, last week in which she was escorted by staff to change her clothes in order to comply with the dress code.

“Getting escorted to a free shirt because mine ‘isn’t appropriate,’” she wrote on the video posted to TikTok on Friday.

In the video, Schueller shows herself following an employee through the park before showing a glimpse of her blouse — a strappy, black number that exposes her midriff.

The footage later shows what appears to be a voucher at the gift shop with a bright yellow Disney World T-shirt on the counter.

Schueller then recorded herself with the same shirt on as she flashed a peace sign.

In the comments, she claimed that she had previously worn the same ensemble to the Animal Kingdom, which is another Disney-run park in Orlando.

Alyssa Schueller in a strappy black top.Alyssa Schueller called out Disney World for being inconsistent with enforcing the dress code.@alyssaschueller/TikTok

“Fyi I was at Animal Kingdom ALL morning without issue,” she wrote. “Went to Epcot and this happened. Went back to [Animal Kingdom] and had no issue once again.”

Schueller urged the theme park to be more consistent about enforcing their dress code.

“If Disney wants to endorse a dress code, then they need to do just that,” she continued. “But the inconsistency… pls.”

Alyssa Schueller in a Disney shirt.Alyssa Schueller said she had worn the top to Animal Kingdom with no issue.@alyssaschueller/TikTok

Disney World on its site informs guests that “proper attire, including shoes and shirts, must be worn at all times.”

“The parks are a casual, family-oriented environment. Ensuring that the parks are family-friendly is an important part of the Disney experience. In that spirit, we ask you to use your discretion and common sense,” the parks said.

“Disney reserves the right to deny admission to or remove any person wearing attire that is considered inappropriate or attire that could detract from the experience of other Guests,” it continued.

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