ORLANDO – What the map of central Florida does not show is how this area is divided in two. On one side, there are shopping malls and housing estates, on the other side, fancy theme parks, and they are connected by Interstate 4, the spine of asphalt which is normally obstructed by people who escape for each other.
Two different cities coexist by proximity and convenience, and even by necessity, and this is how since a man and a cartoon mouse surveyed a vast expanse of cattle pasture six decades ago and had the imagination crazy to build a global tourist attraction.
And now, here in the middle of a pandemic, Orlando is separated again. Another visionary – in this case, NBA commissioner Adam Silver – arrived here to create a safe island space for the league on Disney World property; during this time, a city whipped by a coronavirus must look at the nose pressed against the glass.
Everyone wants to know what’s going to happen inside, and in due course, science will decide whether this daring experiment to restart the NBA season will impress or implode. But what about the outside? How does the other half live? The state of Florida is now facing a massive spike in COVID-19 cases and submerged hospitals and may close again.
It presents an interesting juxtaposition, how one part of Orlando is the center of hope and the other part is the epicenter of the devastation of coronaviruses in Florida.
While LeBron James is looking for a championship with his third team and the Milwaukee Bucks aim to free their legitimacy, and the Utah Jazz teammates break Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert learn to get along, the Orlando that the team buses bypass en route to Disney trying to cope with real life problems. Florida reported 15,299 cases on Sunday, the highest number of new cases reported per day since the pandemic started last spring, breaking its own record. There is also an increase in unemployment in Orlando and a reduction in the number of children attracting their parents to the park’s rides, a combination which, for a city highly dependent on visitors, is more haunting than the summer humidity.
Although there are no illegal visitors or fans allowed inside the highly secure NBA campus, Orlando can at least live vicariously and virally through the players and a game so close but so far of the general population. Assuming, of course, that the season will continue without hiccups until the end of October. If nothing else, the decamped NBA is a diversion for a place that could use one.
“The whole country will be watching what the NBA does, not just Orlando,” said Pat Williams, the former retired president of the Orlando Magic. “I can’t imagine everything that went into it, all the planning, all the details, all the health issues that had to be taken into account. First of all, there is no plan for this. There is nothing in the NBA manual on how to handle a pandemic and try to play basketball. And now we’re going to see professional sports presented in a way that four months ago, no one could have imagined in their wildest dreams, right here in a city where everyone wears a mask and looks like Lone Ranger. “
The league does not do this on a whim. It’s been months. The NBA brings resources, vision and planning and has certainly crossed its fingers on the battlefield with the coronavirus. All players have been tested before leaving their home city, which is why Russell Westbrook, who tested positive for COVID-19, was not on the team’s aircraft and will therefore not show up. in Orlando to expose the others until it clears, and why only two of the 322 players tested positive at Disney.
But the Orlando lifestyle beyond the basketball courts can only be confusing. There is no coherent government or civic plan to open businesses, schools, attractions and other gathering places, and therefore this place is indeed open – in any event. Has the state been too quick to relax certain standards in the fight? Did he rush to reintroduce a sense of normalcy by reopening in early May?
That’s all for the debate; Meanwhile, instead of advancing, Florida is now a hotspot, with disturbing signs swirling all around the NBA campus.
Disney parks reopened last weekend with an abundance of security protocols, and the response has been mixed, with most shouting coming from the country via social media. But locally, at least among those who depend on theme parks for a living, it was welcome. This is why the situation in Orlando is a complicated bag. When rent is due and jobs are at stake and unemployment checks end, it becomes personal and urgent.
For example, Adrienne Johnston, head of the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Economic Research at the Department of Economic Opportunity, recently gave gloomy prospects for a 2.9% labor market in Central Florida. unemployment before the theme parks close in mid-March. In May, the unemployment rate was 23.2% in Orange County and 31% in Osceola County.
“Based on the information we see in both the labor force statistics and the job creation figures, it is very evident that leisure and hospitality is an area that continues to see job losses or not to get them back as quickly, “said Johnston. “Along with the Orlando metropolitan area, there is a high concentration of these types of jobs in this region. And therefore, they are more affected than other regions of the state. “