Disney, Universal and LEGOLAND theme parks to close over coronavirus

By Alexander Kacala and Samantha Kubota

As fears over the new coronavirus continue, several theme parks around the country have decided to shutter their doors.

Both Walt Disney World and Disneyland announced Thursday the parks will close this weekend.

Disneyland in Southern California will shut down on Saturday, March 14, while Disney World in Orlando will close Sunday, March 15, according to a release from Disney. They will remain closed through the month of March. Disney Cruise Line is suspending all new departures starting Saturday.

Universal Studios Hollywood and LEGOLAND California also announced plans to close starting Saturday, and Universal Orlando's and LEGOLAND Florida's theme parks will close starting Monday, March 16. Those parks anticipate remaining closed until late March.

"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 Park," a statement on Disney's website said.

The hotels at Disneyland Resort will stay open until Monday to give "guests the ability to make necessary travel arrangements," the statement added. "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 hotels at Disney World will remain open until further notice, the company said in a statement.

"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," the statement added. "We anticipate heavy call volume over the next several days and appreciate guests' patience as we work hard to respond to all inquiries."

This is the fourth time in history that Disneyland has fully suspended its operations. The other occasions were the morning after John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963, the Northridge earthquake in 1994, and the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

The New York Times reported Disney World has closed on several occasions for different hurricanes including Matthew in 2016, Frances in 2004 and Floyd in 1999.

On Thursday morning, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order in which he recommended all gatherings of 250 people or more be postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

At the time, he said the theme parks (as well as casinos, movie theaters, etc.) had "unique circumstances" and were excluded from the state's guidelines. He applauded the choice to close Disneyland in a tweet Thursday night.

All the parks' commercial shopping and dining areas open to the public — Universal CityWalk, Downtown Disney, and Disney Springs — will stay open.

As of Friday, there were more than 2,000 cases of the new coronavirus in the United States, according to NBC News reporting. So far, 41 people have died.

The TODAY show and Universal Studios share the same parent company, NBCUniversal.

This story initially was published on TODAY at 5:41 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 12, 2020. It has been updated.

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