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Universal Orlando reopens, Disney recalls workers for July opening

Cassidy, Bryan and Bill Corroa of Orlando visit Disney Springs on Friday. Face masks, signs and temperature checks are required.  Photo by Paul Brinkmann/UPI
Cassidy, Bryan and Bill Corroa of Orlando visit Disney Springs on Friday. Face masks, signs and temperature checks are required.  Photo by Paul Brinkmann/UPI

ORLANDO, Fla., June 5 (UPI) -- Universal Orlando's theme parks reopened to the general public on Friday, as Disney World began recalling employees for theme park openings in July after months of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Universal was the first major theme park in Florida to resume operations. Disney and Universal had previously opened free shopping and restaurant areas -- Disney Springs and CityWalk.

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Orange County, Fla., Mayor Jerry Demings approved the plan to reopen the parks, which were closed in mid-March.

Face masks, temperature screenings and six feet of social distancing are required at both parks.

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"Our concern is that people stay healthy and not pass this disease along," said Eric Clinton, president of Disney's labor union United Here Local 362, which represents custodial workers and ride operators.

"At the same time, getting back to work in a safe environment, which Disney can provide, is really important."

Clinton said he and the union were impressed by a complete change of culture at Disney. Returning employees are required to watch a video on the new rules. Among them: Never touch a guest's cellphone -- even to help them take a photo.

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"I was blown away by that. We used to ask people if they wanted us to take their photo," said Clinton, who has worked at Disney for four years.

Disney is also closing restrooms completely for a thorough cleaning every few hours. In the past, the company would clean them while open to avoid inconveniencing guests.

Disney Springs has closed to incoming guests several times to limit crowds since reopening. On Friday, traffic through the area was light but steady. Everyone wore masks, except those eating or a few people sitting in remote areas, despite humidity and temperature near 90 degrees.

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"I really don't mind wearing the mask; it makes me feel safe to see everyone wearing them," said Bill Corrao of Orlando, who visited with his family.

Jude Destin brought his two children, ages 3 and 5, to Disney Springs on Friday to get them out of the house and enjoy some sunshine.

"They love Disney and Magic Kingdom and we've missed it," said Destin, of Davenport, Fla., 20 miles away. "I definitely agree with how Disney is handling this. Safety must be the priority."

Distancing measures will be seen throughout the theme parks, including within the rides. Virtual lines will be used for some, in which visitors use a smartphone app to reserve times rather than queuing in person.

Cashless payments and contactless policies will also be used whenever possible.

SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica and Discovery Cove plan to reopen June 11.

Disney's timeshare resorts and campground will reopen first on June 22, with those employees starting on June 14, Clinton said.

Most employees are set to return by June 21, he said. Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom are set to reopen July 11, with Epcot and Hollywood Studios opening July 15.

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