ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – After shutting down operations on March 23 amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Orlando Starflyer reopened on Friday night.
Owner Ritchie Armstrong told News 6 the attraction, located in Icon Park, was given the green light by the governor's office at 4 p.m. Friday afternoon.
He said they reopened at 5 p.m. only to shut down two minutes later due to a thunderstorm.
The first guests, Dajuvon McGowan and Elijah Roberts, boarded the ride shortly after 7 p.m.
"I didn’t see anything because my eyes were closed, but it was really like a lot of wind," said McGowan.
"We’re complying with all of the CDC guidelines," said Armstrong.
He said his reopening plan called for social distancing markers in line, a new outdoor ticket window instead of an indoor ticket counter and staggered seating on the ride.
"We have hand sanitizer everywhere," Armstong said. "We’re cleaning the rides after every ride -- handles, seatbelts. There’s a deep sanitization being done at night time when we close and in the morning when we reopen."
New cleaning protocols were also in place up International Drive at Fun Spot America on Friday night.
People were staggered on roller coasters and other rides.
Dr. Raul Pino, health officer for the Florida Department of Health, warned COVID-19 has not gone away, and people still need to be aware.
"As we increase economic activity, we could see an increase in the number of cases, and we have seen a slight increase in the number of cases," he said.
Pino said new coronavirus cases were in the single digits last week.
This week's numbers show new cases reaching double digits. Twenty new cases were reported on Wednesday and Thursday.
Park owners said they're confident their new safety measures will make a difference, and they're banking on a successful Memorial Day weekend.
“We are open now,” said Armstong. “We need the locals to come support us and any guests that are here. Come here. We’re going to make sure you have a fantastic experience.”