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Disney World, Universal Orlando Closing Over Coronavirus Pandemic

MIAMI (CBSMiami/CNN) – Disney World and Universal Orlando are closing because of the coronavirus outbreak.

"In an abundance of caution and in the best interest of our guests and employees, we are proceeding with the closure of our theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Paris Resort, beginning at the close of business on Sunday, March 15, through the end of the month," a Disney spokesperson said in a statement.

The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World is the world's most-visited theme park, with more than 20 million visitors in 2018, according to a report by AECOM. The company has invested billions in its theme park division, opening two new Star Wars lands in Orlando and California last year. A brand new ride, "Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway" debuted at Disney's Hollywood Studio just last week.

Disney added that its hotels at Disney World and Disneyland Paris will remain open until further notice and that it will pay its cast members during the closure period.

Disney is also suspending all new departures with the Disney Cruise Line starting Saturday through the end of the month.

As for Universal Orlando, the company announced that it will be closing its two parks and water park. The closures will also start Saturday and last until the end of March.

However, the company said Universal's hotels and CityWalk will remain open.

The news comes after both companies announced their parks in California – Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood – would be closing up shop.

Disney is urging its domestic employees at Walt Disney Studios, Walt Disney Television, ESPN and at its direct-to-consumer, parks and products employees to work from home.

Thursday's closures come as cases of the novel coronavirus rack up around the world, rattling major industries – notably travel and tourism – battering financial markets and prompting major US sporting leagues to suspend their seasons.

Earlier this year, the outbreak forced Disney's theme parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong to close.

"These parks are iconic brands etched in the culture of America and every childhood," Trip Miller, a Disney shareholder and managing partner at Gullane Capital Partners, told CNN Business. "To close assets of this scale around the world would speak to the seldom seen seriousness of this health threat."

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(©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company, contributed to this report.)

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