The Theme Of Summer Sure Wasn’t Fun


John Latimer, Staff Writer

It started throughout early March that our theme parks in Central Florida came to a close due to the COVID-19  pandemic. Not only were significant sporting events being shut down and postponed until a later date, so were the “tourist heaven.” Many residents may refer to various attractions such as Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Volcano Bay, SeaWorld, and Aquatica. Everything we knew as a tourist destination allowing us to go out and have fun was stripped away from us without a moment’s notice.Think about all the jobs that were lost and all the capital revenue Florida makes every year from these parks just from tourists all over the world.This is not not even including our residents who are more than likely annual pass holders themselves. Employees at Disney, in contrast to Universal, took the biggest hit. Disney paid all of its cast members up through April 19th, which was an additional five weeks of pay, but all union workers have since been furloughed. On the contrary, Universal paid all of its team members in full until April 19th, pay cuts came into play, employees were down to 80 percent, and all part-time hourly workers were furloughed beginning May 3rd. Universal City walk has been open during the whole ordeal of closing the major theme parks. Universal Orlando reopened the park on June 3rd to those who have annual passes and travelers staying at Universal Resort Hotels.


Since all of the parks have reopened, strict safety measures have been put in place to ensure that everyone stays safe, and we keep the virus down from spreading as much as possible. Some necessary safety measures on the Universal Help site include the standard precautions: staying socially distant from one another when in line, keeping a mask or face covering on at all times unless eating or drinking, and at specific “safe zones” if a visitor of the park has a medical condition requiring them to take a break from mask-wearing. Universal Studios, in particular, has stepped up their game by taking temperatures twice when entering and exiting the park making sure a person’s temperature does not exceed 100 degrees. They also sanitize every ride thoroughly after each ride cycles through one time. I have interviewed two former employees of Universal Studios who have had to deal with the consequences of this pandemic on their current employment status. One is a student at Olympia High School, Chloe Calhoun, and one of our very own journalists at Apopka High School, Tyler McNamara. Both highlight their struggles while also speaking on the future of Universal as a whole during the virus.

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When asked about her employment status amid this pandemic, Chloe explains, “I ended up filing for unemployment due to the park being shut down entirely. A positive was that I was going to be guaranteed a spot when the park reopened.” She is fortunate because most people are still trying to find jobs now, struggling to make ends meet for their families. Reiterating all of the guidelines on the Universal Help Site, Chloe admits that the park is being very careful and thorough when it comes to the safety of its visitors, decreasing the spread of infection. A question on everyone’s mind is will Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) and the holiday parades still proceed with this “new normal”? She informs me: “Unfortunately, HHN 2020 is not happening, the tribute store is still up and running, giving access to anyone with a pass to the park.” Cece does not have any information on the holiday parades and ceremonies this holiday season, but she does leave me with this when asked about the impact in the theme parks as a whole. She states, “I think the theme parks are a lot cleaner and safer than before not just from COVID-19 also from any germs that could spread.”


Lastly, Tyler, our very own journalist of The Blue and White, highlights his employment struggles at Universal Studios amid this pandemic. Tyler was not guaranteed his position back when things reopened up at Universal Studios, unlike Chloe.  When asked about his employment and the news of his fellow employees being laid off at the park, he gives us great insight on how everything went down, explaining, “I don’t think anyone thought they were going to shut down the parks but when they did; non-essential employees got an email that they would be closed for the rest of the month.”


Tyler further shared, “I only knew that I was furloughed when I stopped getting paid, and the actual news came in April that part-time seasonal employees were being furloughed. Now you can see first hand how everyone’s struggle was different during this epidemic, and you can never just judge a book by its cover.” Tyler agreed with all of the ramped-up safety precautions that Universal Studios put out to the public that would be effective immediately during the park reopening. He got the opportunity to see them first hand when going back to the park just as a visitor. When discussing the impact of the virus on the park, Tyler goes into detail, explaining, “I don’t think theme parks will ever be the same, we don’t know how long we will be dealing with the effects of this virus. No matter what I think, the parks will have to maintain this level of cleanliness and safety if they hope to stay open in the future, and what happened this year will set a precedent for the future.” Whatever the future holds, it certainly has to be better times ahead than now.

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