Disney has announced that the Disneyland and Disney California Adventure theme parks will close due to the coronavirus pandemic. This follows the city of Anaheim’s statement about COVID-19, indicating that relevant stakeholders were planning next steps for how to proceed with entertainment and sporting events.
The closure of Disneyland and DCA will begin Saturday, March 14, 2020 and the parks will remain closed through at least the end of March 2020. Disneyland Hotel, Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, and Paradise Pier Hotel will continue operating through the weekend to allow guests to make alternative travel arrangements before closing on March 16, 2020 for the same tentative duration.
If there’s any silver lining in all of this, it’s that Disney has announced that it will continue to pay Disneyland Resort Cast Members while the parks are closed. This is already going to take a heavy economic toll on Anaheim, but as the area’s largest single-site employer, it would’ve been devastating to many families to have to ride out the closure without income. So kudos to Disney for that.
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. In its announcement, Disney indicates that it anticipates heavy call volume over the next several days and appreciate guests’ patience as we work hard to respond to all inquiries. Please contact The Walt Disney Travel Company for questions and cancellations at (714) 520-5050.
While the parks and resorts are closed, Downtown Disney will remain open. (Although given that most of these businesses are third parties, it’s likely that more closures will be announced–especially without the parks open to provide customers.)
Disneyland now joins Hong Kong Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea, and Shanghai Disneyland as Disney’s worldwide parks that are currently closed. Only Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney World remain open, and Disneyland Paris almost certainly will close in the near future.
That will leave Walt Disney World as the last resort complex operating (we’ll cover the likelihood of a closure there towards the bottom of this post).
The closure of Disneyland comes the day after an announcement from California Governor Gavin Newsom recommending the cancellation or delay of non-essential gatherings with more than 250 people in attendance in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus. The policy, which will be in effect at least through March, extend to concerts, conferences, sporting events and movie premieres.
This course of action from California Department of Public Heath is consistent with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, and includes “social distancing” and avoiding small events at venues that do not allow six feet of space between people. Gatherings of individuals who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should be limited to no more than 10 people, while also following social distancing guidelines.
“Changing our actions for a short period of time will save the life of one or more people you know,” said Governor Newsom in his statement. “That’s the choice before us. Each of us has extraordinary power to slow the spread of this disease.”
“Not holding that concert or community event can have cascading effects — saving dozens of lives and preserving critical health care resources that your family may need a month from now. The people in our lives who are most at risk – seniors and those with underlying health conditions — are depending on all of us to make the right choice.”
California’s policy defines a “gathering” as any event that brings together people in a single room or space at the same time, such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, cafeteria, or any other indoor or outdoor space.
This guidance applies to all non-essential professional, social and community gatherings regardless of their sponsor. Previously, a spokesperson for California clarified to indicate that this did not apply to Disneyland, citing the situation as “complex” and “unique.” Our guess here is that Disneyland is voluntarily choosing to follow this policy, as the optics would be really bad if they didn’t.
The move comes after Orange County declared a local health emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic. This was done as part of broader preparedness efforts related to COVID-19, and not due to a surge of cases in the OC. Doing so will help enable Orange County to respond to a potential outbreak, should one occur. It’ll also allow the county to remain flexible and able evolve with this rapidly changing situation.
California currently has 177 confirmed cases of coronavirus. Orange County, which is where Disneyland Resort is located, has four cases that have been confirmed by the Orange County Health Care Agency, plus 2 presumptive positives from the Centers for Disease Control.
While Disney’s official announcement indicates that Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, and the hotels will remain closed through the end of March 2020, it should be stressed that this is tentative and based upon the state of California’s current guidance. Public health officials will reevaluate and update the state’s gatherings policy closer to the end of the month.
How quickly Disneyland reopens depends largely upon how quickly COVID-19 is contained in the United States, as Disney will almost certainly adhere to whatever guidelines and policies are released by the State of California.
Although Shanghai Disneyland has taken steps to resume partial operations in Disneytown and Shanghai Disneyland Hotel (the park itself is not yet open), that comes 8 weeks after Shanghai Disney Resort first closed due to COVID-19. It also comes after aggressive and draconian quarantine measures by the Chinese government that proved effective in fighting coronavirus. It’s unlikely we’ll see similar measures taken in the United States–even if we did, it’s unlikely that Shanghai Disneyland’s closure is instructive here.
Suffice to say, our expectation is that Disneyland Resort will remain closed beyond March 2020.
Many readers will undoubtedly wonder what this means for Walt Disney World. Obviously, the two resort complexes are very different from one another. For starters, Disneyland Resort is more heavily a destination for locals. Notably, Disneyland only has three hotels.
Consequently, it’s much easier to Disneyland Resort to announce a closure on a Thursday evening that will take effect two days later (or four, in the case of the hotels). Even then, the resort is anticipating heavy call volume due to cancellations and rescheduling.
Walt Disney World has many more moving parts. Beyond the additional theme parks and water parks, there are dozens of hotel and tons of infrastructure built around the world’s largest vacation destination.
This is not to say that Walt Disney World cannot or will not close down, but that it will likely be more of a drawn out process if and when it does occur. It’s difficult to imagine the hotels suddenly closing in the same way as is occurring in California.
With that said, it’s impossible to predict what will happen at Walt Disney World with any degree of accuracy. If you told me yesterday afternoon that the NBA season would be suspended, March Madness cancelled, and America’s Dad infected, I probably wouldn’t believe you.
I know better now, and nothing would surprise me with regard to Walt Disney World’s future operational status. To say the coronavirus pandemic is a “fluid situation” is such an understatement it’s laughable. Developments, closures, cancellations, changes, etc., are occurring with lightning speed.
It is worth noting that while crowds remain normal at Walt Disney World (which is to say high), we’re hearing reports of a surge in cancellations just since yesterday. Hold times on the phone lines are on par with Free Dining release day (for the uninitiated, that’s really long) and that’s not with people rushing to book new vacations.
Suffice to say, if you have a Walt Disney World vacation planned for the next couple of months, you need to be prepared for the very real possibility that your trip will not be happening. It seems like an inevitability that Walt Disney World will close at some point, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see an announcement soon. We will keep you posted as we learn more.
Are you surprised that Disneyland is closing due to the coronavirus pandemic, or do you think it’s overdue? Any predictions about if/when Walt Disney World will follow suit? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!