Florida’s two largest theme parks — Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando — announced on Monday that they would shutter hotels and other entertainment venues because of growing concern over the new strain of coronavirus.
State officials, meanwhile, were still planning to hold Tuesday’s presidential primaries, even as other states put theirs on hold.
Universal Orlando Resort said in a statement Monday that it would close its popular CityWalk, filled with restaurants, shops and movie theaters, at midnight, and close all hotels on Friday at 5 p.m. It said the closures would extend through the end of the month.
Earlier in the day, Walt Disney World announced in a tweet that its hotels and the Disney Springs entertainment district also would close at 5 p.m. Friday to give guests time to arrange other accommodations.
The company said all Disney stores nationwide would close on Tuesday, including in Disney Springs in Orlando, Florida, and Downtown Disney in Anaheim, California. To help contain the spread of the disease, Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens closed on Sunday night for at least two weeks.
The move was announced as the number of COVID-19 cases rose to more than 130 in Florida by Sunday night. Gov. Ron DeSantis was scheduled to release updated numbers Monday afternoon.
On Friday, officials had said there were more than 60 cases and by Saturday, about 100. Three people have died from the virus in Florida.
On Monday, the state unveiled a new online dashboard that provides the public with a clearer picture of where the virus has hit. The COVID-19 surveillance dashboard provides a color-coded map that shows the intensity of infections across the state.
Broward and the South Florida county of Miami-Dade have by far the largest number of infections, with nearly half of all the state’s cases.
A drive-thru testing facility was expected to open soon at a hospital in the state’s hardest hit county, Broward, in South Florida, DeSantis announced on Sunday.
More than 170 National Guard personnel have deployed in the county, and 300 additional Guard members were soon to be activated to help with the testing. State officials said they also were preparing to set up mobile hospitals to help the state’s hospitals with testing if needed. The tests will be free to patients, DeSantis said.
The virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, for most people, but older adults and those with existing health problems can develop severe complications, including pneumonia. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
In line with Arizona and Illinois, Florida had not postponed Tuesday’s presidential primary. Secretary of State Laurel Lee said elections officials across the state were doing all they could to ensure the health of voters and workers. Lee said more than 600,000 Floridians took part in early voting, which ended Sunday. As of Sunday, 1.3 million people had also voted by mail.
Georgia, Ohio and Louisiana have delayed their primaries.
DeSantis said Monday that he was awaiting guidance from federal officials before deciding whether to order restaurants or bars shuttered as some other states and major U.S. cities, including New York City, have done.
The Governor said Florida should brace for even more infections and he again urged residents — particularly younger people on spring break — to exercise caution and refrain from gathering in crowds.
In Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale — popular among college students on spring break — officials said Sunday that they would close off some popular beaches and ordered “nonessential” businesses to close by 10 p.m. to prevent large crowds from forming.
Legislative leaders in Florida announced that traditional end-of-session ceremonies were being canceled to limit large gatherings when it convenes Thursday to adopt a $93.2 billion state budget.
The public gallery overlooking the state House will be closed to all visitors.
Mathews Schroder, a former security guard at Disney World, was at the Magic Kingdom with his wife Sunday night during the park’s final hours before it closed for two weeks. He said character performers dressed as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and various Disney princesses lined up and waved “goodbye” to the visitors as they exited, while Disney World president Josh DÁmaro gave out hugs to Disney workers.
“It’s really sad what happened,” Schroder said. “The whole night was magical and emotional.”