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Florida’s theme parks likely will stay closed for awhile longer because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The plan for Walt Disney World, Universal and the rest to reopen parks on April 1 was dashed on Tuesday as Universal announced that Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Orlando Resort and CityWalk attractions will extend its closures to April 19 in response to growing restrictions to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Walt Disney World and the others in Florida were notably silent on Wednesday in the wake of Universal’s announcement. Meanwhile President Trump has pegged Easter, April 12, as a date for the country to be “opened up and just raring to go.” Meanwhile, Orange County Major Jerry Demings, home to Walt Disney World, on Tuesday announced a stay-at-home order through April 9.
A look at the reopening of theme parks overseas might be a harbinger of things to come. Having been closed for one to two months, Disney and Universal resorts in Asia are only now gradually announcing plans to reopen the gates.
Universal announced the extension late Thursday “as we continue to respond to current conditions and make the health and safety of team members and guests our top priority.”
When Disney World first announced it was closing March 16 for two weeks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, all of Florida’s theme parks announced the same schedule within hours. At the time, all said they would be closed through March 31. Theme parks have closed in the past for a day or two for hurricanes, but this will be the longest such closure in Florida history.
The shuttering was preceded by closures of Disney parks in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Japan and followed by closures of Disney resorts in California and France.
Overseas, most theme parks have yet to reopen, but there are tentative signs the turnstiles will be open soon.
The Shanghai Disneyland theme park closed Jan. 25 and remains closed, though some of the restaurants and shops outside the actual park have resumed operations with limited capacity and reduced operating hours. Even those operations have their limits. Every guest undergoes a temperature screening, and visitors are required to wear a mask during their stay at all times.
Tokyo Disney resort, which closed Feb. 29, has said it will reopen in early April. Hong Kong Disneyland closed Jan. 26 and has yet to announce a reopening date.
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Universal Studios Singapore never fully closed, the only major theme park in Asia to remain open during the coronavirus crisis. It is aided by the fact that Singapore itself has been very successful in limiting the spread of the virus. The park stresses its intense sanitation measures being enforced. Universal Studios Japan, which closed Feb. 29, is scheduled to reopen March 29, though it has called that a temporary opening date.
In Florida, Walt Disney World has only closed its gates seven times in almost 50 years. The Disney parks went nearly 28 years without an unscheduled closure until Hurricane Floyd came barreling down in 1999. The parks also were closed in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. There were a trio of closures due to hurricanes in 2004, others in Oct. 2016 for Hurricane Matthew and 2017 for Hurricane Irma.
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