Social Distancing now Impacting World’s Happiest Place
March 12th was a bleak day for Southern California from the beginning. The morning brought in dank temperatures and dark clouds that by midday opened up to a persistent grey rainfall. Amidst the storm, news outlets could only talk about one thing—the coronavirus, which had infected over 150 people in the Golden State at the time. The virus had already led to schools shutting down, movies being delayed, and professional sports leagues such as the MLB, NBA, and NHL suspending their seasons. And as of 1:30 in the afternoon on this tempestuous Thursday, the disease even caused Disneyland, the “Happiest Place On Earth,” to close its doors for the first time in nearly two decades.
In the morning, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a public warning for all Californians to avoid gatherings of 250 people or more. This included urging businesses to temporarily close stores and cancel large events in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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At first, the House-Of-Mouse announced that it would be keeping its doors open despite the Governor’s recommendations. In an initial online message, the Walt Disney Company stated that its Anaheim and Orlando parks would stay operational, but implement heightened precautions to ensure everyone’s health and safety. By the early afternoon, however, the entertainment conglomerate changed its mind, and announced that the Anaheim park would shut down from the 14th through the end of the month.
Thousands of people visit Disney each day; they come from all around the world to see it. The last time Disneyland closed was following the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001, which speaks volumes to the current situation’s extremity. While it is a shame that so many people must sacrifice their dream vacation due to the unfortunate circumstances, the park’s closure is in the public health’s best interest.
Disney also announced that its hotels surrounding the park will stay in business for guests, that Anaheim’s Downtown Disney will remain open and functioning throughout the hiatus, and that the park will continue to pay its employees despite all interruptions.
Rival Parks also Decide on Caution
Disneyland was not the only theme park to close its doors on the 12th. Shortly after the company broke the news about its Anaheim park shutting down, it revealed that Walt Disney World Orlando and Walt Disney World Paris would be following suit. Likewise, all Disney cruise lines will be suspended and Universal Studios similarly closed its parks in Los Angeles and Orlando for the rest of the month.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, other Southern California spots such as Six Flags: Magic Mountain, SeaWorld, Legoland, and Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier all chose to remain open. However, each of these attractions’ respective owners made statements ensuring that their businesses are on high alert for guest well-being.
Currently, Governor Newsom, like many politicians across the United States, is trying to coordinate with more business owners and healthcare professionals to make sure the public remains safe. Major parks like Disney and Universal heeding the governor’s advice is a good sign, but other institutions are less keen to comply. Theaters, shopping malls, and casinos in particular have been unwilling to sacrifice their business in light of COVID-19.
The theaters, however, might soon be empty, as more and more movies are pushing back release dates due to the virus. It started with James Bond’s “No Time To Die” getting pushed from April to November a few weeks ago, and now many movies are taking the same precaution. The Fast & Furious franchise’s “F9” has been delayed to 2021; John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place: Part II” was pushed back indefinitely; and Disney shifted its entire cinematic timeline to postpone the releases of “Mulan,” “The New Mutants,” and “Antlers.”
With the exception of the 007 flick that led the charge, all of these movie delays were announced on March 12th, the same dreary, wet day that Disney Parks announced their closure on. All of this corporate obstruction also led to the biggest drop in the stock market since 1987 crash, earning March 12th, 2020 the infamous new nickname: Black Tuesday.
It almost feels like a COVID-19 judgment day for businesses, especially those in the entertainment industry—an industry that managed to thrive through the Great Depression, World War II, and just about every national crisis of America’s past hundred years.
At last, the industry may have met its match. Nevertheless, this is not a true judgment day, but rather an evasion of one. Despite monetary setbacks and temporary closures, March 12th did not demonstrate a downfall. Instead, it demonstrated wise choices on many conglomerates’ behalves to comply with scientific evidence and place public safety above business-as-usual procedures. When the virus eventually passes, these movies, parks, and rides will still be there, and their part-time suspensions for the sustained health of millions will be well worth the wait.
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