Eager fans have been lining up since the beginning of the year to get a taste of all the new food at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland, but now those who have yet to experience the blue milk and smoked kaadu pork ribs will have to wait until at least April to do so. The Disney company just announced this afternoon plans to close the entire Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California to avoid crowding amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, marking just the fourth time the historic Orange County destination has fully ceased service. The others came after other large-scale (mostly) national events such as September 11, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
In a newly released statement, Disney says:
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, beginning the morning of March 14 through the end of the month.
The decision to close the park following service tomorrow night comes after a hectic day of back and forth considerations. California governor Gavin Newsom at first exempted Disneyland and other parks, as well as theaters and casinos, from his recommendation against large group gatherings, which was first announced as a “social distancing” tactic to limit close contact and to “flatten the curve” to slow down the speed and influence of an outbreak on the national healthcare system. At the time, Newsom said he was leaving off large parks like Disneyland in part because of “the complexity of their unique circumstances,” without going into much further detail.
At any given time, the combined California Adventure and Disneyland parks can hold tens of thousands of people, many of whom come for the food as much as the rides. From iconic turkey legs and churros to the famous Dole Whip and exclusive Club 33, Disneyland is often seen — just like the now-postponed Coachella — as a hub for dining as well as adventure.
Park-goers actually showed up and were admitted earlier today to Disneyland, and the company at first pushed back on the idea of a closure, citing its continued cleaning efforts and sick leave policies. The company has already closed Disney parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong back in January, and is said to be losing roughly a quarter of a billion dollars so far on the closures. Downtown Disney, a retail shopping area just outside of the Disneyland park in Anaheim, will remain open.
Meanwhile up in Los Angeles, local and state officials continue to advise against large group congregations of any kind, and every major professional and collegiate sport has been postponed or cancelled for at least the next month, including Dodgers opening day. Some large-scale restaurants are worrying publicly about the fallout of keeping big dining rooms busy in this time of social distancing, especially considering new mandates in New York State that require bars and restaurants that seat less than 500 people to reduce capacity by 50 percent.