Disney said on Thursday that it will close its Disney World and Disneyland resort and theme parks in Orlando and Anaheim amid concerns of the novel coronavirus spread in the U.S.
Disney said it will continue to pay its cast members while the parks are closed. The company also recommended that any employees able to work from home — including those at its film studio and TV business — do so.
Earlier on Thursday, Disney first made the decision to close its parks and resort in California before following that up by closing the Disney World in Florida and Disneyland Paris. The company said earlier in the day that while there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 at Disneyland Resort, it was closing in the “best interest of our guests and employees,” beginning the morning of March 14 through the end of the month.
“In an abundance of caution and in the best interest of our guests and employees, we are proceeding with the closure of our theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Paris Resort, beginning at the close of business on Sunday, March 15, through the end of the month,” a Disney spokesperson said after also closing parks in Florida and Paris. “The hotels at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris will remain open until further notice. The retail and dining complexes, Disney Springs at Walt Disney World and Disney Village at Disneyland Paris, will remain open.
“Domestic Walt Disney Company employees who are able to work from home are being asked to do so, including those at The Walt Disney Studios, Walt Disney Television, ESPN, Direct-to-Consumer, and Parks, Experiences and Products,” the statement continued. “We will continue to stay in close contact with appropriate officials and health experts.”
Disney Cruise Line will also suspend all new departures beginning Saturday, March 14, through the end of the month.
Disney’s parks, experiences and products division, which includes all of the company’s theme parks, resorts, and cruise lines, is its biggest contributor to revenue. In 2019 the division contributed $26.2 billion to Disney’s overall revenue of $69.6 billion.
The last time Disney shut down the park was after the September 11 terrorist attacks, and Disneyland has only closed two other times prior: The national day of mourning after the JFK assassination and after the Northridge Earthquake in 1994, which was one of the most powerful ever recorded in North America.
Disney closed its parks in Hong Kong and Shanghai and Japan back in January, though many shops and restaurants at Shanghai Disneyland have since reopened. During the company’s earnings call in February, management said the closure of the two Chinese sites alone would cost the company at least $175 million. “The precise magnitude of the financial impact is highly dependent on the duration of the closures and how quickly we can resume normal operations,” Disney CFO Christine McCarthy told analysts at the time.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency earlier in the month after the first COVID-19 patient died after falling ill while aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship.
Late Wednesday, Gov. Newsom, in accordance with new guidelines from the state’s Department of Public Health, asked that all gatherings of more than 250 people be canceled throughout the state in an effort to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 illness caused by the coronavirus.
The decision includes almost all sporting events, most concerts, many movie screenings, high volume workplaces, and many restaurants and bars, not to mention film premieres and large scale media events. Though not mandatory, Newsom called on Californians to follow the guidelines through at least the end of March.
During a press conference earlier in the day on Thursday — before Disneyland closed — Gov. Newsom said those guidelines would not include the theme park, but that they were having conversations about the situation.
The new guidelines, posted Wednesday night, are the strongest measures yet in the state’s efforts to contain the disease that has infected roughly 200 Californians.