ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – With growing fears from the coronavirus, event organizers continue to cancel big conferences and conventions planned in Orange County and those even cancellations are beginning to affect area workers.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons became the latest organization Tuesday to call off its convention scheduled to run from Mach 24-28 at the Orange County Convention Center. Five conventions in total have backed out of hosting conferences at the convention center. The conferences would have created an estimated economic impact of $283 million combined.
Bill Lawson works to set up and break down events all over the Central Florida area, including at the Orange County Convention Center. He said the canceled events are affecting his bottom line.
“It’s really tight times and people are worried,” Lawson said, adding he has three children and recently got married.
“I’m worried about paying my bills because my company eventually is not going to be able to pay out salaries,” Lawson said. “Work is canceling left and right, and I just made a drive to Tampa to set up an exhibit and had to turn around because it was canceled.”
He's not alone.
"I may have to try to get food stamps. I don’t know any side jobs I can get," said Joel O'Brien.
O'Brien also works event at the Orange County Convention Center.
“(I’m) frustrated because this was our busy season, and this takes us through the summer when it’s not so busy,” O’Brien said.
Restaurants and business owners and employees say they’re also affected. Deborah Blanco owns Orena Sports Bar and said she sees a boost in business when conventions are happening.
“When the convention is done, the workers have to tear it down and I also get that business,” Blanco said.
Convention center officials say they are still working to reschedule many events and they want to re-emphasize that there are still upcoming events at the convention center
Officials with the convention center issued the following statement Tuesday:
"The Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) is operating and continues to make the safety of our guests and attendees our No. 1 priority. We continue to work diligently with our clients on their conventions and rescheduling events with our available space and dates. That coordination is taking place now. We have several conventions planned in the future. We just hosted the Sunshine Volleyball Classic – USA Volleyball Event this weekend at our North-South Building with more than 40,000 attendees and an estimated $51.34 million economic impact and American Open Cheer with 10,048 attendees and an estimated $12.9 million economic impact. We are working closely with Orange County Government and the Florida Department of Health on COVID-19 updates and continue our increased disinfectant procedures across the campus."
In the meantime, officials with Visit Orlando said they’re not seeing a huge impact in general on visitor numbers. Orange County receives more than 75 million visitors a year.
Click here for a list of the conferences that have been canceled and rescheduled at the Orange County convention center.