LOS ANGELES — Disneyland announced Thursday it would be shutting its doors starting Saturday through the end of March in the wake of growing concerns in the U.S. and around the world about the coronavirus pandemic.
Another big southern California attraction, Universal Studios Hollywood, is also closing for two weeks.
The Disneyland Resort, the name for the larger complex in Anaheim, Calif., that includes Disneyland, California Adventure theme park, the Downtown Disney dining and shopping complex and hotels, said it is hasn’t had any reports of COVID-19, as the coronavirus is also known.
But after reviewing California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to call off large gatherings and “in the best interest of our guests and employees,” it is going to close the two adjoining theme parks, it said in a statement.
“The hotels of Disneyland Resort will remain open until Monday, March 16, to give guests the ability to make necessary travel arrangements; Downtown Disney will remain open,” the statement continued. “We will monitor the ongoing situation and follow the advice and guidance of federal and state officials and health agencies. Disney will continue to pay cast members during this time.”
“Disneyland Resort will work with guests who wish to change or cancel their visits, and will provide refunds to those who have hotel bookings during this closure period,” the statement said. “We anticipate heavy call volume over the next several days and appreciate guests’ patience as we work hard to respond to all inquiries.”
In a similar announcement, Universal Studios Hollywood said it would close from Saturday until March 28 “out of an abundance of caution.” The themed dining and shopping area outside the park’s entry gates, Universal CityWalk, will remain open.
The announcement comes one day after Newsom urged an end to gatherings of more than 250 people to counter spread of the coronavirus, a move he said would cause “real stress” for many people and businesses but save lives. Later Wednesday, California public health officials issued an updated policy saying “non-essential” gatherings such as sporting events, concerts and conferences should be postponed or canceled until at least the end of March.
Newsom, who conferred with former Disney CEO Bob Iger, initially resisted closing the Anaheim theme park, saying the order banning large gatherings didn’t apply to Disneyland. He told USA TODAY, “The reasons we didn’t do it was the complexity of their unique circumstances.”
Pressed on the issue of allowing certain attractions to stay open Newsom said that he will be offering more “clarity and guidance in the immediate future” on how large public places will be handled. He mentioned possible changes how lines are handled, “queuing,” as one possibility. “They are not getting a pass,” Newsom said. “We are leaning in. We are not being passive.”
Newsom declared a state of emergency in California on March 4, while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis did the same on Monday.
Disney Parks, Experiences and Products chief medical officer Pamela Hymel previously wrote in a blog post that both the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando and the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, would follow measures “in line with the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health agencies.”
Both U.S. Disney parks implemented the following safety protocols:
- Frequent cleaning and disinfection of walkways, queues and other areas.
- Increased availability of hand sanitizer and more hand-washing stations.
- Daily sanitation of restrooms, kitchens and other facilities.
- Ongoing training for employees.
Among the most popular theme parks in the world, it is estimated that 28.5 million people visited the two parks in 2018, or an average of 78,000 guests per day, according to industry organizations AECOM and the Themed Entertainment Association.
Other popular U.S. theme park organizations remain open, like Six Flags (with locations in 11 states) and Sea World Parks and Entertainment (which owns three Sea World locations in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio; plus Busch Gardens in Florida and Virginia; and Sesame Place in Philadelphia).
“Our parks employ experienced health and safety teams and have protocols to follow high sanitary and cleanliness standards in line with the CDC recommendations,” Sea World Parks and Entertainment announced on its website Tuesday “As the situation evolves, our experts are coordinating with public health officials to take appropriate steps to meet the health and safety needs of our guests, Ambassadors and animals in our care.”
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Around the world, other major theme parks have closed down. Shanghai Disneyland announced Jan. 24 that it would temporarily close “to ensure the health and safety” of guests and employees, while Tokyo Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland followed over the next two days, respectively.
The Shanghai park has since begun a “step of a phased reopening” by opening doors again Monday to a “limited number of shopping, dining and recreational experiences” at Disneytown, Wishing Star Park and Shanghai Disney Hotel, operating “under limited capacity and reduced hours of operation.”
But Tokyo Disneyland announced Wednesday it would remain closed “through early April” out of precaution over the coronavirus. The Hong Kong park remains closed with no projected reopening date.
After originally planning to reopen March 16, the park extended its closure of both Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, according to an update on its official website. Universal Studios Japan also announced a similar extended closure through March 22.
The Walt Disney Company earns royalties from Tokyo Disneyland, but the park is owned and operated by a third-party Japanese corporation. Shanghai Disney is co-owned by Walt Disney and the Shanghai Shendi Group and managed by a Shanghai-based park and resort company. Disney also receives royalties from the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, which is majority-owned by the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and operated by Disney’s separate Hong Kong subsidiary.
Contributing: David Oliver, USA TODAY; KiMi Robinson, Arizona Republic; Don Thompson, Arthur Levine, Associated Press