Theme parks have yet to fully reopen in the United States during the coronavirus pandemic, even though Universal and Disney are opening their shopping districts, CityWalk and Disney Springs.
A question that needs to be answered is how are theme park guests going to safely ride roller coasters and other attractions while following virus prevention guidelines. SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment might have been testing a solution to that problem on Tuesday.
Daniel Leavelle, owner of theme park blog Midway Mayhem, was told SeaWorld would be testing and running its fastest coaster, Mako, with employees. Leavelle watched from a public area outside the park as the Mako coaster started running.
Mako reaches speeds of up to 73 mph with steep drops and curves. The coaster does not invert riders.
The coaster ran for about an hour and conducted about 30 test runs, about 15 to 20 of which had people on board, Leavelle said. The employees were wearing and testing different styles of masks.
Leavelle saw employees wearing at least four styles of mask: N-95, cloth, mesh and face masks. Not only were they wearing masks, but were practicing social distancing. Some riders were separated from each other by being placed on the end seats of the coaster, which has four seats in every row.
Mako with MASKS!!!!
People continue to ride Mako at @SeaWorld during testing! Crews are testing out several arrangements of mask to see if it's safe to ride!#midwaymayhem #seaworld #seaworldorlando #mako #makomadness pic.twitter.com/2C0KqS83fR
— Midway Mayhem (@Midway_Mayhem) May 19, 2020
During the testing, Leavelle did not see one mask come off of a rider.
“Any sort of testing at this point is good,” Leavelle said. “I truly expect that we are going to have the parks hopefully opening soon, and this is one of the steps that it will take to get there. I, personally, would much rather have a mask and ride a roller coaster, than not have the roller coaster open.”
SeaWorld said the tests were done in preparation for its eventual reopening. The park said announcements may be coming soon.
“SeaWorld’s team of experts is currently making necessary preparations to reopen and operate our parks as soon as safely possible, including the testing of rides, new sanitation protocols and a number of other enhanced health and safety related measures,” a SeaWorld spokesperson said.
SeaWorld has not announced a reopening date yet, but Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said Friday theme parks could open in Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ second phase of openings.