Shortly after publication of this article, Disneyland Resorts announced that they were opting to close for the remainder of the month of March, beginning Saturday, giving guests staying at the resort until Monday to secure travel arrangements.
California Governor Gavin Newsom mandated a ban on gatherings of 250 or more persons in a sweeping effort to control the spread of the Wuhan virus in his state.
In the ban signed on Wednesday, Newsom deemed that crowds were limited to a 250 person capacity and that even in smaller gatherings, people must stand at least six feet apart from each other. "Each of us has extraordinary power to slow the spread of this disease," Newsom said of the new policy. "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."
Both Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood will not be required to comply with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order against large gatherings to counter the spread of coronavirus https://t.co/tL6Rz4DJoR— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) March 12, 2020
But one element of Californian life that often attracts enormous crowds of people was mysteriously exempted from restrictive ban: Themeparks Disneyland and Universal Studios. Among the most popular destinations in California, the parks attract enormous crowds of families throughout the year, thanks to California's temperate climate. During the ban meant to protect the state from the spread of the Wuhan virus, the attractions that bring in people from all over the globe will not be required to comply with the policy that all other Californian venues must. While Disney does not release the figures for daily attendance, it stands to reason that, as the state's fifth most popular destination, more than 250 people per day visit the park.
In comments made on Thursday, Newsom said the parks' exemption was "because of the complexity of their unique circumstances." He also noted that he had discussed the situation with Disney executive chairman Bob Iger. Newsom said during his remarks that casinos and theaters would also be released from the obligation to comply with the ban. He did not offer an explanation for those exemptions either.
Neither Universal nor Disney have opted to comment on their unique allowance to continue to drive revenue while the state is crippled by fear of the Wuhan virus, chief medical officer for Disney Parks Dr. Pamela Hymel touted the cleanliness of Disney as a possibility for their allowance. "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,” Hymel said Tuesday in a statement. "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."
In California, 198 cases of the Wuhan virus have been confirmed as of Thursday afternoon. Nearly 1400 cases have been confirmed across the country of which 38 have resulted in death. While some theme parks remain open, including Disneyland's counterpart Disney World in Florida, nearly all professional sports and concerts have been postponed, including collegiate basketball tournament March Madness.