(Bloomberg) – Walt Disney Co. and Comcast Corp.’s Universal are going to face a lot of trouble reopening their U.S. theme parks. But when they do, it seems like no one is going to have much fun.
Universal Orlando presented local Florida county authorities with its plans to reopen its facilities on June 5, detailing how the park will attempt to keep its workers and visitors protected from COVID-19. Its measures begin in the parking lot sector, where the spaces will be occupied alternately so that even the cars are socially distanced from each other (and without valet parking). From there, everyone entering the park must wear a face shield, and an employee will take their temperature with a non-contact infrared digital thermometer. Crowds will be controlled. Even at attractions, one out of every two rows will remain without passengers.
But it is the wait to enter the attractions that will feel especially strange: the healthy nervousness of thinking about the route of the first attraction can be replaced by the disturbing sensation of wearing a mask or the simple discomfort of wearing it. After all, on Thursday afternoon it was 35 ° C in Orlando. (Workers will have more frequent breaks so they can wash their hands and, if there is an open area, remove their masks to take a breather.)
Universal’s plans, which were approved by the county task force without any objection, reveal how experiences throughout the day will be slightly marked by this new reality. It could be an almost creepy experience, or at least a very different one from the vacation that most families probably envisioned when they disbursed $ 119 per ticket. Some of these measures may not even be of much use: As we have learned in the past few weeks, not all people infected with COVID-19 develop a fever, and in fact, many do not develop this symptom.
Eating will be an interesting experience: Universal knows that visitors will not be able to drink ice cream with their masks on, so it is spacing the tables so that people can remove their masks while they eat. Good luck to the parents who will have to put the masks back on for their children after the snack and to the workers who will have to clean those tables. (The menus will be, at least, disposable). Meanwhile, other changes aren’t too bad: Universal will promote contactless payment systems and there will be plenty of hand sanitizer dispensers. It will also implement virtual lines at a greater number of attractions so that people do not have to wait standing next to each other for long periods, and will eliminate the lines of individual passengers so that strangers are not sitting next to groups.
In theory, it’s a carefully crafted plan by Universal to make the best of a terrible situation. In practice, it could be a difficult logistical nightmare to implement. The internet is full of videos of Americans resisting the use of mandatory face shields and strongly criticizing these kinds of restrictions. John Sprouls, the executive vice president and managing director of Universal Parks & Resorts, said that so far visitors have signaled that they understand and accept the regulations. But there is always at least one and, in a park with thousands of people, perhaps there will be more. Sprouls said it would be a “managed capacity” opening, but did not specify how many people would be allowed to enter. Universal will “test” its system on June 3-4 when it opens for a select group of invited visitors.
It is unclear how much all of these new security protocols will cost Universal and Disney, which is also working to reopen its Orlando complex after reopening its Shanghai park on May 11. The added costs of security and protection along with the intentional sale of fewer tickets will reduce the benefits for these companies. It remains to be seen to what extent. For them, from a financial point of view, it is certainly better than keeping the parks closed. However, for visitors, a trip that was supposed to offer an entertaining escape from reality could end up being a reminder of it.
Original Note: The Wizardly World of Masks, Temperature Checks: Tara Lachapelle
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