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At a time when states such as New York and Massachusetts experienced spikes in cases during April and May, Florida’s cases stayed stable, with daily cases rarely surpassing 1,000. Even with a record-setting 15,300 cases reported on July 12th, Governor Ron DeSantis stated that he still wants to move forward with reopening other tourist attractions in central Florida and schools in August. He cited that a possible reason for such a large jump in positive cases is due to increased testing, because the NBA and MLS are holding their seasons at Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and require a player who tests positive for coronavirus to continue to be tested every two days until they test negative two times in a row before returning to play. The death toll in Florida has surpassed 4,000, though DeSantis has yet to implement a mask mandate or updated guidelines for public places like California governor Gavin Newsom and Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Like Florida, Texas and California have seen a surge in cases, but both governors have paused reopening in their state and admitted to their mistakes on reopening too soon. Despite the governor’s trust that his citizens will make “good decisions” on wearing a mask and social distancing, Dr. Lilian Abbo, an infectious disease expert at the University of Miami, warned that, "Miami is now the epicenter of the pandemic. What we were seeing in Wuhan [in China] ... five months ago, now we are there.” Miami-Dade County recently imposed a curfew and ordered all restaurants closed for indoor dining as daily tests reached 143,000 with a positivity rate of 18%. Abbo concluded that this surge can be attributed to young people hanging out in large groups and then passing it on to older, more vulnerable family members. As Florida becomes the new nationwide epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak health officials warn that without mandatory guidelines and rules for citizens, Florida could experience this level of the outbreak in multiple cities, such as Orlando and Tampa.
Despite the spike in infections, Disney World reopened the Magic Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom on July 11. After nearly four months of the park being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, visitors were welcomed back into the parks on Saturday. The parks have opened with limited capacity and have implemented rules like practicing social distancing, wearing masks and requiring reservations ahead of time. Dr. Pamela Hymel, the chief medical officer for Disney Parks explained that “From increased cleaning and disinfecting across our parks and resorts, to updated health and safety policies, we have reimagined the Disney experience so we can all enjoy the magic responsibly.” However, despite these measures to safely reopen, there are many risks especially as the coronavirus cases in Florida have been continuing to rise. As many out-of-state visitors are traveling to the world’s epicenter for COVID-19 to visit the park, there has been rising concern from many experts that the reopening of Disney World will cause a ripple effect of coronavirus cases to the rest of the nation. According to Dr. Saskia, an infection prevention epidemiologist at George Mason University, “There’s always a concern when people visit a place with high community transmission that they’ll be exposed and potentially take the infection back with them to their home state or county.” Especially now that Florida has seen a spike in coronavirus cases, the reopening of the Disney World parks evoke the concern that the threat of transmission can continue to spread to other states as well.
Written by Megan Yee and Margot Galligan
Authors and Editors