UPDATE: The Walt Disney Co. announced Friday that Disneyland and Walt Disney World will not reopen at the end of March, as previously announced.
“While there is still much uncertainty with respect to the impacts of COVID-19, the safety and well-being of our guests and employees remains The Walt Disney Company’s top priority, ” according to Disney’s statement via THR.
“As a result of this unprecedented pandemic and in line with direction provided by health experts and government officials, Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort will remain closed until further notice. The Walt Disney Company has been paying its cast members since the closure of the parks, and in light of this ongoing and increasingly complex crisis, we have made the decision to extend paying hourly parks and resorts cast members through April 18.”
With California currently under a stay-at-home order, all non-essential businesses must stay closed until the order is lifted. And as THR points out, “the earliest Disney World would be allowed to reopen is 11 p.m. on April 9 under the Orange County stay-at-home order, which includes theme parks.”
Our original report from March 12 follows.
Disney announced Thursday that Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure are closing as of March 14 through the end of the month due to concerns over the coronavirus (COVID-19).
— Disney Parks News (@DisneyParksNews) March 12, 2020
As of time of publish, it was uncertain whether Disney World in Orlando, Florida, would also be closing in response to the outbreak.
This would only be the fourth time in Disneyland’s history that the park has been closed. The three other times were the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, the 1994 Northridge earthquake, and the 9/11 attacks of 2001.
Disney’s announcement comes on the heels of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s press conference Thursday during which time he said gatherings of more than 250 people should be postponed. However, Newsom later said that both Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood won’t need to comply with this policy, “because of the complexity of their unique circumstances,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The exemption for theme parks was met with widespread criticism on social media.
Chief medical officer for Disney Parks, Dr. Pamela Hymel, said in a previous statement that they’re committed to keeping Disney staff and guests healthy:
“As part of our commitment to the health and well-being of our cast, guests and the larger community, we are carefully monitoring the evolving coronavirus situation and are in regular contact with health agencies for information and guidance. Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort, are welcoming guests as usual and we continue to implement preventive measures in line with the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health agencies.”
The Verge had reported about Disney cast members discussing how easily the COVID-19 disease can spread: “If one gets it, we all get it.”
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Disney had previously taken measures in response to COVID-19 for their other parks. USA Today reported that Hong Kong Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland have since closed. There are currently no plans for when Hong Kong Disneyland may reopen. However, Tokyo Disneyland is closed until at least early April with expansion plans being “postponed to mid-may 2020 or beyond”.
The Shanghai Disney Resort park closed over a month ago and partially reopened this Monday with a new policy in place. According to the park website, guests are required to wear a mask and show their health via a QR code system when entering dining areas.
“Every guest entering Shanghai Disney Resort will be required to undergo temperature screening procedures upon their arrival,” the park’s official site explains. “Guests will also be reminded to maintain respectful social distances at all times while in stores, queues and restaurants.”
Disney originally required cast members at their Tokyo park to wear masks in February, before deciding to close. Disneyland Paris also issued a statement on their website that they’re adjusting queue line capacities in response.
IGN spoke with a number of medical experts to learn how movie delays may help stop the spread of COVID-19. Events like E3 2020 and SXSW that bring large amounts of people together have closed as well.