Orlando’s theme parks close and the city’s residents struggle

Splash Chill & Grill’s hours have been shortened. Photo by Devon Watson

ORLANDO —The death toll in the United States from thecoronavirus has eclipsed China’a with more than 3,500 fatalities officially announced, according to the Associated Press.

As cases continue to rise, much of the U.S. has shifted to a stay-at-home policy. Within this policy businesses are forced to close their doors earlier than normal or,in many cases, not open at all. Traveling from state to state is discouraged by the government to try and keep the virus from spreading even more.

The pandemic is not only killing humans physically, but mentally as well.

Orlando is a city that offers over eight theme oramusement parks, including Disney World Animal Kingdom, the largest individual park in the world.

Entrepreneurs rely on incoming tourism that isn’t happening right now in order to keep their businesses thriving.

Large cooperations are suffering right along with small companies.

The government made a list of specific, essential businesses that can be open during these times.

According to Visit Florida, Orlando annually brings in more than $24.8 billion in tourism money.

CPR Cell Phone Repair phone agent Shelby Lewis says within the last week she can count on one hand how many came into the shop to get their phone fixed.

“People not coming in to get their phone fixed is sweet because that’s less work I have to do,” Lewis said. “But at the same time, it’s making me bitter because now my manager is forced to give me less days on the schedule.”

Disney World and Universal Studios shutting down affects all the business around them. Small businesses and vendors rely on customers attending theme parks. Hotel owners continue to monitor their sales as properties become vacant.

Rachon Gibson, night auditor for the Wyndham Hotel, is responsible for checking over all cashier transactions. He says more than 500 reservations have been fully refunded with no charge because of the coronavirus. Although he wouldn’t give specific numbers on how much it has cost the hotel, he did say out of his three years working there this is the worst he has ever experienced in sales.

“We usually see a peak in sales during Christmas because of the holiday and New Year’s. Summer is another time when our rooms are always booked but it’s not looking good right now,” he said. “There are no bars or nightclubs open because of social distancing.”

Kimani Johnsonis a single parent who lives approximately two miles from Orlando’s downtown area. Johnson charges $10 to park in her back yard on the weekend for people partying downtown.

“Nobody’s going downtown so I’m not able to use that extra money to pay my light bill this month,”Johnson said.