Disneyland, California Adventure parks to close until April due to coronavirus

Disneyland and Disney California Adventure will close Saturday morning through the end of the month in response to Gov. Gavin Newsom and state health officials' recommendation that gatherings of 250 or more people be cancelled across the state, company officials said.

"While there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 at Disneyland Resort, after carefully reviewing the guidelines of the governor of California's executive order and in the best interest of our guests and employees, we are proceeding with the closure of Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure, beginning the morning of March 14 through the end of the month," Walt Disney wrote in a statement Thursday afternoon.

"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. 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."

The company announced it would refund hotel bookings during the closure.

Disneyland and other Southern California theme parks were open for business Thursday morning, even after the guidance from the governor, which does not carry the force of law and does "not apply to essential public transportation, airport travel or shopping at a store or mall."

A representative of Knott's Berry Farm said Thursday morning that the Buena Park attraction "is aware of the new guidance issued by the state of California last night regarding large events based on the COVID-19 outbreak. Knott's Berry Farm is open today as we understand and evaluate what this means for our park, our guests and our associates."

Before announcing the closure, Disney had said in an online message that Disneyland and its Disney World resort in Florida were still open and "we continue to implement preventative measures in line with the recommendations of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as state and local health agencies."

The online message said the parks have added additional hand sanitiser stations and increased the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting "high guest contact areas."

A measles outbreak originated in the popular Anaheim park in 2015, spreading to dozens of cases stretching beyond U.S. borders. Disneyland drew 18.7 million visitors in 2018 while the Magic Kingdom park in Florida hosted 20.9 million.

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During a news conference Thursday, Newsom said the guidelines excluded large parks like Disneyland and places such as casinos, card rooms and movie theatres because of "the complexity of their unique circumstances."

"I assure you we are moving quickly and effectively toward a resolution in those spaces," Newsom said. "They raised enough legitimate concerns and questions in the short run that we thought it appropriate to exclude them from this general order today and advance those conversations (in) earnest."

Newsom said theme parks are not going to be completely exempted from the guidelines, and that state officials are working on a policy that accounts for their unique needs.

He also said he talked Wednesday with Disney's Executive Chairman and former CEO Bob Iger.

"Disneyland, I think, has a thousand people on a ride every hour, and concerts and theatres. They have parades. That's a nation-state campus environment. I mean, that's a whole different thing," Newsom said.

The governor also has been in talks with movie theatre companies, which he said already are making efforts to deal with lines and introduce social distancing, the practice of staying away from crowded areas to reduce the spread of an infectious disease.

Earlier this week, the "Happiest Place on Earth" outlined the steps it was taking to keep its guests safe, including robust cleaning and sanitation procedures, training for employees and providing easily accessible hand-washing facilities.

The city of Anaheim said on its website it is closely watching the coronavirus outbreak in order to determine whether locations should be closed.

"We expect to see changes in Anaheim in coming days based on the (governor's) policy," officials said. "As a major visitor city, the guidelines cover Anaheim's sports, entertainment, convention and other venues, as well as larger events."

Inquiries to Six Flags Magic Mountain, Universal Studios Hollywood and Legoland California were not immediately returned Thursday morning.

Mike Spanos, president and chief executive of the Six Flags Entertainment Corp., previously wrote a public note emphasizing "the top priority at Six Flags is the safety and the well-being of our guests and team members."

He said Six Flags has "significantly enhanced" its cleaning and sanitation efforts and is asking employees who are sick to stay home.

"If anyone has a fever or becomes sick while at work, we will immediately release them to see their medical provider," he wrote. "We hope that these measures give you confidence that we are taking the necessary precautions in this evolving situation."

California's new guidelines broadly apply requirements that have been adopted in counties that are struggling to combat community spread of the coronavirus. Until now, the decision to implement such measures had been left to the discretion of county public health officials, who the governor previously said are best equipped to make decisions for their communities.

Public health experts say county health departments make the change when the virus spreads at a scale that makes it difficult to trace everyone who may have been exposed to the disease, allowing officials to focus resources on protecting hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities most at risk.

Los Angeles Times​

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