It was just a couple of weeks ago now when the coronavirus outbreak went from being a theoretical problem to a real one. Reducing transmission of the virus become paramount and that meant that any place where large numbers of people might gather were potentially hot spots. This was bad news for theme parks, and all the major locations, from Disney to Universal, to Six Flags, announced they were closing down for the rest of March. Now Universal has become the first to extend its closures, as both the Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood will now be closed until April 19.
Even as the two week closure was being announced, there was a feeling that it might not be long enough and Universal is taking no chances, by extending their closure by three more weeks, rather than just a few days. This will likely trigger a rash of phone calls as those who had vacations planned in early April now scramble to make changes or end trips out right. Check out the full statement from Universal Orlando Resort below.
At the moment, Universal is only major theme park company to extend its closure. Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and many other parks, are still, officially, set to reopen April 1.
That's likely to change in at least one other case. Orange County Florida Mayor Jerry Demings signed a "stay-at home" order yesterday that covers all of Orange County until April 9. Since much of Walt Disney World is located in Orange County, the park should be affected by the order, and may need to stay closed until at least that date. Odds are we'll get an official statement clarifying the situation before too long.
While discussions of how the mass shutdown of the nation has impacted the economy, and what should be done about that, are ongoing, there are just as many people saying that the self-isolation we're currently experiencing should be extended for a few more weeks. By April 19 the Universal parks will have been closed for nearly a month. While one wants to believe that will be enough, we should probably be prepared for the possibility that another extension could happen.
Considering how much being closed is costing Disney, and one assumes Universal is seeing a similar hit, you can bet that all the theme parks will be open as soon as is realistic, and not a moment later. There's not much point in the parks being open if nobody is going to feel safe going, so it's not necessarily in their interest to open early.
There's something about the closed theme parks that is just sad. There may be no better symbol of the utterly depressing situation we are in then all these places where families have fun being empty. Certainly, they should not open any sooner than is safe, but once they are, we'll know things are getting better.