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What coronavirus fears? Disneyland visitors pour in and focus on fun

Disneyland and coronavirus
Josh Graves, his wife, Gabrielle Graves, and their 4-year-old son, Will, visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland on Thursday.
(Ruben Vives / Los Angeles Times)

Jenny Reyes didn’t think about the coronavirus until she stepped out of her friend’s car at Disneyland’s parking lot in Anaheim, the second-most visited theme park in the world.

On the escalator, the Boston resident took notice of the handrail.

“Don’t touch that, don’t touch that,” she told herself.

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But the moment was fleeting. At the bottom of the escalator, her friend Anna Maltez of Long Beach snapped a photo of Reyes standing by a globe structure shaped like Mickey Mouse’s ears.

Concerns about coronavirus, and California’s declaration of a state of emergency, were not going to stop Reyes from visiting the “Happiest Place on Earth.”

“It’s more about trying to be conscious of the things you touch,” Reyes said.

As the number of coronavirus cases rose in the United States and some conferences and public events were canceled, thousands of residents and travelers continue to make their way to Disneyland.

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Theme park officials said they are taking precautions to try to keep visitors safe, noting that they are taking guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“As part of our commitment to the health and well-being of our cast members, guests and the larger community we are carefully monitoring the situation and are in regular contact with health agencies for information and guidance,” park officials stated in their website.

Additionally, the park said that they have onsite health team and our providing training to employees about illness prevention.

Meanwhile, other theme parks were taking similar measures. In a statement Six Flags Magic Mountain said they enhanced sanitation efforts on public areas.

“We have added more anti-bacterial soap and alcohol-based hand sanitizers,” the park said in a statement. “We are ensuring guest and employee access to these preventive enhancements throughout all areas of the park, especially in restrooms, food locations and employee break areas. We are also encouraging guests and employees to practice good hygiene with frequent and rigorous hand-washing.”

These are on the checklist public health officials are issued for dealing with the virus. In general, experts have said it’s fine to be out in public unless you are sick. But Santa Clara County on Wednesday suggested that high-risk individuals — the elderly and people with a history of poor health — avoid large public gatherings.

At Disneyland, many reasoned that you could get sick just about anywhere in the world. Might as well take some reasonable precautions, but don’t let fear get in the way of having fun.

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At the entrance of the park, as the orchestra version of Snow White’s “Heigh-Ho” song played on speakers, Louiz Elvira and his wife, Trisha, were trying to locate a brick they sponsored that had their names etched on it.

The couple, who live just outside of Oakland, said they went to the amusement park after the postponement of the Natural Products Expo West — which was scheduled to be held at the Anaheim Convention Center — caused hotel cancellations and cheaper room prices.

“The rooms were half-price so we said, we’re booking it,” Trisha Elvira said. “But I was very worried to come here.”

“She was worried about the crowds and close contact,” her husband said.

“Yeah, it makes me nervous, but then I finally had to say forget it, if it happens it happens,” she said.

The couple said everything they read about the virus suggested that the people most vulnerable to it were elderly and suffering from other illnesses. None of those things applied to them, so they decided the trip was well worth it.

“As long as you wash your hands like they say and use hand sanitizing, I think it’s OK,” Louiz Elvira said.

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Inside the park, there were only the most subtle hints that people were thinking about coronavirus. Some people bought hand sanitizers from stands. Some employees joked about investing in hand sanitizing companies.

There were sanitizing stations at restaurants. Parents used sanitizing wipes to clean the hands of their children. But some of the most visible accessories for the coronavirus-concerned — latex gloves and masks — were uncommon sights. That made Disneyland feel, pretty much, like Disneyland on any other day.

People scrambled to get photos of Pluto, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. The cast members hugged and waved at people. (No air hugs to be seen.) The Straw Hatters played traditional jazz on the park’s Main Street U.S.A. while people recorded and snapped photos of them.

At the Shooting Exposition in Frontierland, Lindsay Rasmussen, 26, rummaged through her green backpack. After a few seconds, she pulled out a dollar. She walked over to exchange it for quarters at a machine with her boyfriend, Jarin McClinton, 32. They inserted the coins then each grabbed a rifle and began shooting at targets as the sound of thunder and animals echoed.

The couple — he from Washington, D.C., and she from Santa Fe, N.M. — said they weren’t worried about the virus given their ages and good health.

The couple said they were using hand sanitizer and washing their hands. But Rasmussen conceded that she wished she had used sanitizing wipes after holding the rifle.

“I was very conscious of it,” she said.

“What are you going to do?” McClinton said. “There are so many rides where you’re going to be touching things.”

At the park’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, some visitors joked about the plausibility of finding coronavirus in a galaxy far, far away.

“I heard there was no coronavirus on [the planet of] Batuu,” Josh Graves said, chuckling.

Graves, 33, of North Hollywood, had come to the park with his wife, Gabrielle, 30, and Will, his 4-year-old son. He said the coronavirus was on both their minds and they’d momentarily been concerned for their son. But like others, they reasoned that their youth and health made them less likely to get ill.

Gabrielle Graves said she was worried at first because of the large crowds and the number of visitors from other countries. She said two other families were expected to come with them to Disneyland but canceled. They urged the Graveses not to go to the park, adding to her fears. But ultimately the family decided to come.

As a precaution, they were washing their hands and wiping down dining tables with antibacterial wipes.

“What are we doing to not get sick, Will?” Gabrielle Graves asked her son.

Dressed as Star Wars character Kylo Ren, the boy remained quiet.

“The Force is keeping him well,” Josh Graves said with a laugh.


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