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UPDATE: Disneyland closes amid coronavirus outbreak but Universal Orlando and Disney World are (for now) open

Despite the push for social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney theme parks and others remain open—and people are still going. 

UPDATE: Disneyland closes amid coronavirus outbreak but Universal Orlando and Disney World are (for now) open
[Photos: CDC; betinasuarez/Pixabay]
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UPDATE (3/16/20) 10:42 am EST: Disney World Resort theme parks and water parks in Florida have shut down from March 16-31. Disney World hotels will close beginning Friday, March 30 through the end of the month.

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UPDATE (3/12/20) 4:44 pm EST: Disney will be temporarily closing its Anaheim location despite governor Gavin Newsom’s announcement earlier today that the state’s executive order banning mass gatherings did not include theme parks. In a statement, Disney 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.”

Disney did not disclose whether or not it would close Disney World in Orlando.

UPDATE (3/12/20) 2:11 pm EST: California governor Gavin Newsom announced in a press conference that the state’s executive order against mass gatherings will not including casinos, theaters, and theme parks, such as Disneyland.


Disney executive chairman Bob Iger told shareholders earlier this week “we’re all sobered” by the coronavirus outbreak and the havoc it’s wrought on the stock market.

However, Disney doesn’t seem quite sobered enough to shut down its theme parks.

Despite the World Health Organization officially declaring COVID-19 a pandemic, entire countries going on total lockdown, President Trump announcing a travel ban, the NBA scrapping the rest of its regular season, and U.S. cities banning mass gatherings, Disney theme parks, as well as others including Universal Orlando Resort, remain open—and people are still going.

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If you search “will they close” on Google, in the top autocomplete answers are “Disneyland California” and “Walt Disney World.”

The short answer, so far, is no.

California has been one of the leading states to try and enforce WHO’s recommendation of social distancing by calling for the cancellation of all gatherings with 250 people or more. Silicon Valley recently issued a legal order banning mass gatherings of 1,000. However, Disneyland Park in Anaheim is still open. In a press release, Anaheim officials stated the city is planning “next steps” in response to limiting public gatherings and that they expect to see changes in the coming days.

In the FAQ section under Disneyland Parks, the company says it’s responding to COVID-19 in its locations by implementing preventative measures: “For example, we have added additional hand sanitizers throughout the park, increased the frequency of cleaning and disinfection in high Guest-contact areas, and are providing information about good hygiene practices and illness prevention to our Guests and Cast Members.” Universal Orlando’s Safety and Travel page had similar information.

It seems as if major theme parks are taking the same approach to COVID-19 as SXSW did: Hold out until the city says no.

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At this point, particularly in California, it’s all but certain that “no” will come sooner rather than later. However, in the meantime, as one mother told The New York Times, “If I’m going to get sick and die, I might as well do it at Disney World.”

About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America," where he was the social media producer.

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