Several new safety protocols will make the theme park experience look quite a bit different than it did pre-coronavirus

By Hannah Chubb
May 22, 2020 03:53 PM
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Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Orlando Resort is ready to open its doors to visitors once again — but they’re warning guests that the experience will not be the same one they are used to. 

After closing indefinitely amid the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March, Universal Orlando plans to reopen to the public on June 5. The decision was announced on Thursday during a meeting of the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force, where their reopening proposal was approved by the task force and Orange County Mayor Jerry Demmings. 

If Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signs off on the proposal, Universal will start the process of reopening the parks on June 1, inviting some annual passholders and special guests to enter on June 3-4 to "stress the system and make sure it works," said John Sprouls, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of Universal Parks and Resorts, during the task force meeting. 

The public will then be allowed to enter on June 5, with a number of protocols in place in order to keep all visitors and employees safe and healthy. “Things are going to be different, but we’re going to ask guests to be patient with us," Sproules said on Thursday.

Universal Orlando Resort

He then went on to detail several ways the theme park experience will be different, for now — all of which he says have been vetted by health and safety officials. Here are 10 of the most noteworthy:

  1. Water and mist elements in the park and on rides will either be eliminated or reduced. This will be done in an effort to prevent the potential spread of the virus through water. 
  2. Parking will be staggered. Staggering parking times in the numerous lots will keep visitors apart as they arrive and allow for easy social distancing.
  3. There will be required temperature checks at all main entrances. If a visitor does not pass the temperature test, they will be given time in a cool area to see if their temperature drops below the required level. If not, they will be sent home. Guests will be asked to test their own temperatures at home before arrival in order to avoid this. 
  4. Guests and employees must wear masks. If they arrive at the park without a mask, a free disposable one will be provided to them. 
  5. Single rider lines will be eliminated. Normally these lines allow employees to fill up each ride completely when there are odd-numbered parties. The new practice will ensure no guest will have to come within six feet of someone who is not a part of their party. 
  6. There will be no meet and greets. Characters will still be performing in shows throughout the park, but will not leave the stage to interact with guests post-performance. 
  7. Capacity will be reduced in the park and on rides. Fewer people will be allowed to enter the park, and fewer people will be allowed on each ride at one time. Many rides will have entire rows of the ride vehicles blocked off to promote social distancing. 
  8. Touchless payments will be requested. Cash will still be accepted, but touchless will be the preferred method of payment for food, merch, etc. All menus will also be single-use and disposed of after each use.  
  9. Lines will look different. People will be able to enter a "virtual line" for some attractions meaning they will not need to stand close to others to wait to enter. Entrance times alerts will be shared digitally. Where lines are required, there will be markers on the ground to indicate where people should stand in order to remain six feet apart. 
  10. Interactive play areas will be closed. Social distancing is near-impossible in these sensory-focused playground areas meant for young visitors, so they will be closed to ensure no children are at risk. 

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Park employees will also have to make a number of changes in order to keep guests safe. 

Sproules noted that staff will start training on the new safety measures the weekend of May 23 in preparation for the opening. They will be required to do self-temperature checks at home daily and once they arrive to work. They will also observe social distancing requirements in break areas and will no longer share wardrobes.

Staff will also be urged to practice social distancing outside the park, to keep themselves safe and healthy. 

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