The Universal Orlando Resort theme park reached capacity just 10 minutes after opening on Wednesday morning at 8am despite the surge in COVID-19 cases that has been reported in Florida and nationwide.
Photographs taken from inside the theme park on Tuesday show large crowds gathered inside the resort.
The theme parks have not released figures showing the exact number of visitors, and DailyMail.com has asked Universal Orlando Resort for information on its precise capacity levels both before and after the pandemic.
Both Universal Orlando Resort and Disney resumed theme park service at limited capacity this summer after being shut down for two months at the start of the coronavirus outbreak.
Initially, Disney operated at 25 per cent capacity, but recent reports indicate that it quietly raised the capacity to 35 per cent.
It is unclear whether Universal has done the same.
‘We have been working to give our guests a great experience while we manage park attendance and access to our attractions as part of our COVID health and safety protocols,’ Universal said in a statement.
‘We are doing the best we can during a busy holiday period, while making sure we do not compromise our strict protocols and we ask guests for their patience and understanding.
‘While in our parks, we encourage guests to use our app and watch for us to open additional virtual line time frames and track ride wait times in real time.’
Wednesday marks the second day in a row that the theme park reached capacity shortly after opening.
Both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure posted a tweet at 8:32am Eastern Time on Tuesday stating that they had reached capacity and were forced to turn away anyone who purchased tickets.
‘We do not anticipate re-opening, and we encourage you to visit us another day,’ the tweet said.
On Wednesday morning, University Orlando Resort once again reached capacity just 10 minutes after opening, though it added that ‘we anticipate reopening later this afternoon.’
Lisa Nathan, a visitor from Michigan, told WOFL-TV on Tuesday that she bought tickets to Universal but was turned away at 8:30am because she was told that the theme park could not admit any more guests.
‘By the time we walked up to Islands of Adventure, which is supposed to open at 8am…We walked up at about 8:15 or 8:20 and they were already at capacity and we could not get in,’ Nathan said.
‘As far as you could see, there were people in a standby line. It was unbelievable.’
Universal does not use a reservation ticketing system like its neighboring theme park, Disney World.
The holiday season is a particularly busy time for the theme parks, and this year is no exception despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Florida officials reported 13,871 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, the third highest daily increase of new COVID-19 cases to date.
Wednesday’s tally raised the state’s total to 1,306,123 cases.
The Department of Health also reported 137 more confirmed deaths.
Overall, 21,546 people have died in the Sunshine State from COVID-19.
That total does not include 311 deaths among non-Florida residents.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 6,280 people were hospitalized because of the virus.
Also as of Tuesday, about 150,000 people have received a coronavirus vaccine.
Alarmingly, visitors are flocking to theme parks despite the fact that Florida is seeing a record-high positivity rate.
Health officials reported that Tuesday showed a positivity rate of 26.29 per cent. Monday’s per cent positive rate was 22.75.
That means that more than 1 in 4 coronavirus tests performed returned a positive result.
It should be noted that public health experts have said that there is no evidence COVID-19 outbreaks have been linked to any theme parks.
‘Our concerns are not really the large parks,’ Dr. Raul Pino, the director of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, told ClickOrlando.
‘These parks are open space, and that’s less conducive to transmission.
‘Our concern is the smaller parks that may not have the resources that Disney and Universal or SeaWorld have.
‘Our outbreaks, we have not been able to link to specific places at the large parks.’
Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, has resisted imposing lockdown measures including closures of businesses as other states like California and New York have done.
DeSantis has said he believes that the closures do not work and are harmful to the economy.
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