Greetings all. Many group leaders and individuals, especially those from outside the U.S. who do not receive the regular U.S. news reports as we do here, have inquired as to the coronavirus risk in the United States and Florida in particular. Here are the facts:
No. Statistically far from it. While the U.S. has the world’s fourth largest population (331 million), it’s COVID-19 cases (what the coronavirus is called here) are a fraction of those in other countries. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, there are currently only 164 cases, even after the virus was first detected here nearly two months ago. More than half of the 50 U.S. states have no cases at all.
By contrast, according to the CDC, since flu season started last fall, there have been 32 million cases of varying types of influenza in the U.S., including 310,000 hospitalizations and 18,000 deaths, and those are common annual numbers for the U.S. during the winter flu season. While the mortality rate is very low, the common cold and flu are a much bigger risk than COVID-19.
No. There have been only 7 cases since the beginning of the year when it first showed up. Nearly all are in south Florida, the Tampa Bay Area, or the extreme northern border with Georgia. None have been in the Orlando area.
Nearly all U.S. cases are on the west coast of the U.S., in California and Washington State.
Even though Florida is now the fourth-most populous state in the U.S., with 22 million residents, it’s main industry continues to be tourism. Cruise ships come and go from a dozen locations, and Orlando International Airport is the world’s second-busiest. The numbers of tourists from nearly every country on the globe is enormous, leading to a constantly heightened state of awareness about foreign-based illnesses that might be brought in absent such awareness and diligence.
Certainly. Orlando International Airport reports increased traveler screening and airport sanitation including the use of KaiVac and Zymec machines to deep-clean restrooms, customs screening, and other inspection stations and traveler protection areas. Zymec is a fogger and KaiVac sprays a disinfectant throughout a specific area, according to the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.
The experience the airport has in dealing with world travelers from areas where exotic diseases may exist, is certainly one of the reasons that there continues to be zero cases of COVID-19 in the central Florida area.
According to a Disney spokesperson, there have been no suspected cases at any of the parks. And while they are conducting “business as usual” (and the parks, as I write this, are packed as always), they are taking extra precautions. Disney has it’s own Disney Health Organization located at the parks, and it is consulting constantly with the CDC in Atlanta and the Florida Department of Health as to recommended proactive measures. These include more-frequent sanitization of restrooms and areas of close contact between patrons and increased numbers of medical personnel monitoring individuals and first-aid stations for any sign of unusual Illness, according to Disney.
While given that the rigorous screening at the airport and the precautions by Disney (the US Open event location and hotel are within Disney World) greatly reduce the chance of anyone with COVID-19 ever making it to the US Open to begin with, we still have taken vigorous steps to help insure that there is little chance of transmission of any type of illness through contact at the US Open. This includes working with Disney and the Florida Department of Health to restrict or disallow attendance of persons from high-risk countries; sanitation of competition surfaces on a regular basis before, during, and after they are in use; single-use water cup stations; increased medical personnel on-site with knowledge and experience in detecting flu-like symptoms; and our International Registration personnel working with Group Leaders to identify in advance of travel any persons who may present any level of increased risk and discouraging their attendance.
The US Open has an solid history in this area. During the SARS (2002) and MERS (2012) years, when cases in the U.S. and worldwide were many times the concern of COVID-19 (which actually is a type of coronavirus like SARS and MERS), the precautions taken in Florida and at the Disney and Universal attractions and at the Open were successful with no cases being reported among Open attendees.
While we expect that well before this summer COVID-19 will have run it’s course in the U.S., as did SARS and MERS in years before, we are taking all precautions to impart confidence to our customers and attendees that the US Open and Disney will continue to be safe places for the entire family to have a wonderful and memorable competition and vacation experience.
The US Open staff is, as always, available anytime for any questions or concerns.
THE US OPEN STAFF & EXECUTIVE TEAM