Central Florida could see uptick in coronavirus cases as attractions reopen

Health director says he’ll be monitoring data

A sign reminding people of social distancing and safety measures because of the coronavirus is posted in the garage area before the NASCAR Xfinity series auto race Tuesday, May 19, 2020, in Darlington, S.C. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson) (Brynn Anderson, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Announcements came Friday that several Central Florida attractions -- Universal Orlando, Fun Spot and Gatorland, to name a few -- were planning to open in the near future, but that doesn’t mean the local impact of the coronavirus pandemic is over.

Florida Department of Health in Orange County director Dr. Raul Pino said it’s possible that as restrictions are loosened and guests start visiting theme parks once again, the area could see an increase in COVID-19 patients.

Pino said right now, the county is seeing about 20 to 30 cases a day. To prevent that number from swelling, his team plans to do what he called “secret shopping” at the attractions once they open to see how well guests are abiding by social distancing rules and other guidelines.

“What is critically important as we increase economic activity is to have those measures in place to protect employees and protect consumers that are going to use the parks and all the attractions, not just the parks,” Pino said.

Before being allowed to open, those attractions were required to present plans to Orange County’s Economic Recovery Task Force that included restrictions meant to prevent a second wave of coronavirus cases. They include limiting capacity, increasing sanitation measures, virtual queues and cashless transactions.

Even still, Pino said his team will be monitoring the health figures to see what happens.

“Could we see an increase in the number of cases? Yes, we could. That’s why we are so actively watching that data,” Pino said.

With the cumulative total of cases in Orange County at 1,744 and a positivity rate of 2.9%, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said he’s “optimistic” that the region won’t see a spike in infections.

If that does happen, however, steps will need to be taken to stop the spread of the deadly respiratory illness.

“If we see where we can track new cases to a particular event, if it appears it is directly related to the reopening efforts then we’ll have to make an assessment of that and make an adjustment. Is it possible that we could find ourselves with some other restrictions put in place? It’s possible,” Demings said.

He said that regardless, residents should expect to adjust their lifestyles and adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards until a vaccine is developed.

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