ORLANDO, Fla. — Theme park lovers have been counting down the days until they could hop back on their favorite rides.
That wait partially ended Friday when Universal Orlando reopened all three of its parks. Temperature checks, masks and limited capacity didn’t stop thousands of people from returning.
Universal is the first of Orlando’s three major theme parks to reopen since the COVID-19 shutdown.
On Wednesday, guests who checked into select Universal Orlando Resort hotels as well as passholders, were the first members of the public allowed into the theme parks.
“I think people have been a little less conscious in the lines for social distancing, but other than that it’s been pretty similar,” Universal visitor and passholder from Texas Peter Ryan said.
Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Volcano Bay will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Park officials said guests, team members and vendors are required to wear face coverings in public areas. And guests, team members and vendors will be required to undergo temperature checks upon arrival. The parks will also be relying more on virtual queues, mobile food ordering and cashless payments.
And don’t worry, you can still do character meet and greets with the characters such as the trolls. However, social distancing markers are in place as to keep people away from the characters. But they’re raised up, to allow you to take selfie. And, that’s one of the times you can take off your mask.
“I read a review of the passholders that came yesterday or the day before, and there were several that were like. ‘I had so much fun. I didn’t even think about my mask,’" said Michelle Klein, a visitor at Universal. “Because for me I was like ‘Oh ,the mask,’ but once I read that from a dad I (was) ... OK."
Official said employees with temperatures of 100.4 degrees or greater will not be allowed to work, and guests with temperatures of 100.4 degrees or greater will not be allowed entry to adhere to safety guidelines.
“As long as the coronavirus is a concern, keep it clean, enforce the social distancing,” Ryan said.
Universal Orlando Resort employs 27,000 people.
Earlier this week, officials said tourism development dollars plummeted 97% compared to April 2019.
Tourism returning to the region means more dollars, and jobs.
“We’re going to get not all of those workers back immediately, I would imagine. But a significant number of them will work again and have income,” said Sean Snaith, an economist at the University of Central Florida.