With Florida first presumptive cases of coronavirus, the state’s many theme parks are bracing for the damage a virus scare can do to tourism.
Florida announced its first two cases Sunday. Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday morning that Florida health officials expect more people to test positive.
Akin to with hurricane planning of the past, most Florida theme parks Monday were monitoring the situation closely and had trained employees to be alert.
Theme parks in Asia have closed or seen huge drops in attendance since the outbreak of coronavirus. Tokyo Disneyland and Disney parks in Hong Kong and Shanghai, Universal Studios Japan and Legoland Japan announced a two-week closure in an effort to contain the spread. The amusement parks are scheduled to reopen on March 16.
At Legoland in Winter Haven, a spokeswoman said the park has “restricted employee travel to higher risk countries, implemented enhanced cleaning regimes at our attractions.”
“We have informed our teams of coronavirus symptoms as well as the importance of good hygiene practices,” said Julie Estrada of Merlin Entertainments, which operates the park. "Like many businesses, we continue to monitor the situation closely and are in regular contact with local authorities so we may respond quickly to any developments.”
Walt Disney World officials told employees who had recently traveled to Italy to stay home. There have been no confirmed or suspected cases of coronavirus at the parks and the employees did not exhibit symptoms of the virus, a spokesperson said, but they were asked to stay home “out of an abundance of caution.”
At Busch Gardens in Tampa, a spokeswoman said the park is in close contact with health officials.
“The health and safety of our guests, ambassadors and animals is our top priority," said Rebecca Romzek. "In matters pertaining to public health, our parks take direction from the Florida Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control (CDC). We employ rigorous sanitation standards across our parks and will continue to collaborate with health officials, monitor the situation for changes and will act accordingly.”
Disney customer service representatives, according to numerous social media posts, are telling guests who are concerned that the company is monitoring the situation closely and is offering, on a case by case basis, the ability to reschedule vacations.