Vice President Mike Pence recently addressed concerns about the safety of attending theme parks, such as Disney World, in light of the growing coronavirus crisis. The comments come as Florida is bracing for spring break, which is one of the busiest times of the year for the Sunshine State.
Noting that those who are most at risk from the illness are the elderly or those with preexisting health conditions, Pence emphasized that the majority of Americans should “confidently” travel, according to Click Orlando.
“Whether it be Disney World, whether it be other destination [sic], whether it be cruise ships … those most at risk are seniors with serious or chronic underlying health conditions,” he said.
“Otherwise Americans can confidently travel in this country,” Pence concluded.
Pence — who was named the “Coronavirus Czar” by President Donald Trump — was in Fort Lauderdale attending a conference with cruise ship executives. The cruise industry has been hit hard by the epidemic, especially when two ships made headlines after numerous passengers were infected and reports of a former passenger dying from COVID-19 emerged.
Though the theme park industry has not suffered as badly, it has not been immune.
For example, Disney was forced to close its parks in Asia, specifically the Hong Kong and Shanghai locations. Theme park industry expert Dennis Speigel estimated that the House of Mouse has likely lost between $175 million to $300 million due to the closures, which have lasted over a month.
Disney is experimenting with opening specific areas outside the Shanghai park this week, though the main area of the park will remain closed (via CNN). However, guests will be required to undergo temperature screenings to enter the park as well as wearing face masks throughout the duration of their visit.
However, Disney parks in the United States not only remain open but are as vibrant as ever, according to Disney superfan Kurt Schmidt.
Schmidt, who operates Disney fan and news website Inside the Magic, attended the Wednesday opening of the new Disney ride Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. According to the aficionado, over 1,000 people attended the event, and there were no masks in sight.
“From where I’m sitting, there’s absolutely no difference in how things feel,” he said, per Click Orlando. “I can’t see anything that is different.”
However, industry experts have pointed out that there is likely a lot going on, even if some of it is behind the scenes.
Dennis Speigel, a theme park industry consultant, explained 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.”
This was echoed by Tom Schroder, a spokesman for Universal Orlando, who assured visitors that the park was dedicated to the “best-practice health and hygiene procedures.”
“We will continue to closely monitor the situation and be ready to act as needed,” he added.
One bright spot for family vacationers is that children have shown an incredible and unexplainable resistance to the disease. In fact, scientists noted that out of the first 35,000 individuals diagnosed with the virus, not a single one was under the age of 15.