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Crowds jam Main Street USA in front of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Thursday, March 12, 2020. Walt Disney World announced Thursday night that it will close the central Florida theme parks starting Monday through the end of the month. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

Disney Parks Closing

MIAMI (AP) — Theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Paris Resort will be closing through the end of the month, starting at the close of business Sunday, the Walt Disney Company announced. 

The company said in a statement Thursday that the decision was made “in an abundance of caution” to protect guests and employees amid the global outbreak of the new coronavirus. The decision came hours after the announcement of the planned closure of Disneyland in California. 

Additionally, Disney Cruise Line will suspend all new departures beginning Saturday and continuing through the end of the month, the statement said. The Walt Disney Company will pay its cast members during that closure period, according to the release.

The hotels at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris will remain open, along with the shops and restaurants at Disney Springs at Walt Disney World and Disney Village at Disneyland Paris, according to the news release. 

Orlando is the nation’s most visited tourist destination, bringing vast numbers of people from around the globe to its major theme parks, which also include Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando. The city attracted 75 million visitors in 2018. No one has tested positive in the two counties that are home to the popular amusement parks. 

Universal Orlando Resort also announced in its own emailed statement that it will temporarily close its theme parks starting at the end of business on Sunday. The company said it anticipates remaining closed through the end of March but will continue to evaluate the situation.

It added that Universal Orlando’s hotels and Universal CityWalk will remain open and that it has instituted flexible programs for guests who had booked travel packages and tickets with the resort.

In a day of fast-moving developments, NASCAR announced a March 22 race in Homestead, Florida would take place without fans. 

And Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced the cancellation of the Miami Open tennis tournament. 

Florida’s governor has strongly advised municipalities and businesses to limit or postpone large gatherings as concerns spiked over the new coronavirus. 

The number of cases statewide was raised to 42 after the state health department announced late Thursday that 15 people ranging in ages from 20 to 83 tested positive for COVID-19. Most appear to be travel-related but in at least six cases, the cause was not immediately clear.

“I am recommending to local municipalities and private entities to strongly considering limiting or postponing mass gatherings,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference Thursday in Miami.

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