This wasn't the 'going viral' that anyone wanted

March 10, 2020, 9:36 PM · It's hard to look forward to anything when all the stuff you were looking forward to might be closed or canceled, isn't it?

Every day, something else goes. Today on the theme park beat, IAAPA announced that it is ditching its IAAPA Expo Asia 2020, which was to be held in June at the Venetian Macao in China. Elsewhere, airlines are cutting their schedules. Cruise lines are watching sailings empty as public officials issue warnings, then backtrack, leaving the public confused. Meanwhile, reports of cast members testing positive for Covid-19 at Disneyland Paris fuel speculation that it might close, too. Here in the United States, the parks remain open, though with the addition of plentiful dispensers of hand sanitizer.

No, it's not an easy time to be making travel plans. But amid all the confusion, frustration and even anger that many people are feeling right now, I think it's important to consider why things are happening.

The global Covid-19 crisis has seen both careless action and reckless inaction, as people flail under the pressure of having both too much information and yet not enough. So what is necessary and what is not? What is panic and what is prudence?

Is the model here SARS, which killed 774 people before the disease was contained... or the 1918 ("Spanish") influenza that killed between 17 and 50 million? Covid-19 has killed more than 4,000 people already, though at a lower rate than the SARS epidemic, which was caused by another strain of coronavirus. SARS was contained relatively quickly because authorities applied lessons learned after the 1918 pandemic.

How does this affect theme park fans? Because the lesson of 1918 and SARS is that if you don't have a vaccine or an immediate Tamiflu-style treatment for a virus, the best way to stop its spread is by preventative isolation. In other words, a quarantine.

It might seem ridiculous to cancel major sporting and cultural events, close theme parks and ban public gatherings for a virus that leaves most of its victims with relatively mild symptoms. But you do that because some of the people who get Covid-19 won't get off that easily. For the elderly and those with heart and lung conditions, this virus can be a death sentence. The best way we have to keep those people alive is to keep from getting sick in the first place.

The elderly and the sick often rely upon the assistance of others, so it is imperative that those others not come down with Covid-19. So the people who those health care and aid workers come in contact with over the course of their days must be Covid-19 free, too. But how do we ensure that?

Ideally, the most efficient way to stop a virus is to test everyone, then strictly isolate everyone who has it. But we've not done that in the United States, where Covid-19 testing has been a farce of bad decision-making ever since China first reported the disease. Covid-19 victims do not show symptoms for about five days after getting infected. By the time that someone gets sick enough to end up at a hospital and satisfy the CDC's criteria for being tested, they could have infected countless other individuals.

That's important because a new virus such as Covid-19 - for which no one has been vaccinated because a vaccine does not exist - can spread so quickly that it overwhelms hospitals' ability to house and care for the most vulnerable patients. Communities need to at least slow the spread of the new virus so that, like the seasonal flu, it doesn't flood emergency rooms all at once.

That leaves us with one strategy for containing the disease - preventive isolation. If you keep people apart from one another, the virus can't spread between them. Unfortunately, American culture often trains us to behave like sociopathic consumers — just act selfishly, do what you want, and wait for the "invisible hand" of the marketplace to make it all right for everyone else. But if we are to be part of a functioning society, sometimes you have to set your own interests aside in favor of helping others who need it.

Getting Covid-19 might not be a big deal for you. But it could be a big deal for that 80-year-old or COPD patient ahead of you in the grocery checkout line. You need to not get this virus for them, even if you don't care whether you get it or not.

This does not mean that we all have to stay home by ourselves until Covid-19 disappears. But it also doesn't mean that we need to hoard toilet paper and hand sanitizer, either. As my doctor said yesterday, this isn't even a gastrointestinal disease. What the hell are people thinking they need all that toilet paper for? To cough into?

If we can't get the widespread testing that we need, the next best thing that communities where Covid-19 is present can do is to temporarily stop events that put large numbers of people in close proximity for extended periods of time: major sporting events and concerts, crowded theater performances, and large university classes. Eliminating those opportunities for the virus to spread to lots of people quickly "flattens the curve" of new infections, allowing hospitals and health care workers not be overwhelmed.

If those measures don't contain the virus enough, though, then it might be time to do as other nations have and to take more drastic actions to keep people apart from one another until the virus' spread slows. Leaders are in a tough spot now. Act quickly, and people complain that you are closing things unnecessarily. Act slowly, and people complain that you didn't do enough to stop the disease.

I hope that this disease gets contained quickly, as SARS was nearly two decades ago. I want again to look forward to visiting a bunch of great theme parks and new attractions, as I was just a few weeks ago. But I won't get mad at public officials and theme park leaders if they postpone events or even close parks. If it needs to be done, then do it.

I just hope that it won't be.

Replies (32)

March 10, 2020 at 10:49 PM

How did we, as a society, get to the point where the first thing we hoard is toilet paper?

March 11, 2020 at 8:46 AM

Danny you’re right it doesn’t make sense at all. Instead of stocking up on medications and vitamins, toilet paper seems to be the cabbage patch doll of 2020. It’s ridiculous

March 11, 2020 at 9:52 AM

Robert, here in the UK we are experiencing a media reaction bordering on hysteria with people being encouraged to go into self-isolation for 2 weeks even if they don't have symptoms. We are also seeing major sporting events being postponed. Your article is the best article I have read on the subject with a very objective rationale. It has actually made me think differently so, "thank you".

Most UK supermarkets are out of toilet rolls. I can only think it is because the nation is c****ing itself on getting it. No other plausible reason. On a plus note, Mrs Plum found some at the local corner shop and, even better, they were on offer. A missed opportunity by the proprietor if ever there was one.

I am working on the construction of the Hinkley Point nuclear power station that currently has in excess of 5000 people, it is funded partially by the Chinese and we have had daily visits from them leading up to the virus. Just a couple of confirmed cases could shut the site down temporarily which will cost EDF at least $7m per week.

Surreal times.

March 11, 2020 at 10:11 AM

Maybe it started with the president throwing toilet paper at the residents of Puerto Rico? haha

March 11, 2020 at 3:26 PM

2 feet on the ground...
Testing everybody = impossible. That's a simple fact.
Persons to be tested ARE selected. That's why I believe that the Disney Cruiseliner testing everybody when boarding, is a dangerous self (Disney) inflicted hoax. (Faked testing means false feelings of security)
There are not enough test "time units" (and materials) available for testing everybody.

Belgium: official strategy in testing on the virus, copy-paste of the original text from University hospital, followed by google translation of same :
Over de test
De test, die screent op een specifieke genetische code die uniek is voor dit virus, wordt uitgevoerd op een uitstrijkje van de keel en de neus. De gescreende persoon wordt tijdelijk in een isoleerkamer ondergebracht in afwachting van de testresultaten (gemiddeld 6-8 uur). De tests worden uitgevoerd in het Nationaal Referentiecentrum voor respiratoire pathogenen (UZ Leuven), in Sciensano (het Belgisch instituut voor gezondheid) en binnenkort ook in het laboratorium van het UZA.

Als het testresultaat negatief blijkt (m.a.w. 2019-nCoV is niet aangetroffen), mag de persoon naar huis gaan.

Als het testresultaat positief blijkt (m.a.w. 2019-nCoV is wel aangetroffen), blijft de persoon in afzondering in het ziekenhuis tot de ziekte voorbij is.
About the test

The test, which screens for a specific genetic code unique to this virus, is performed on a smear from the throat and nose. The screened person is temporarily placed in an isolation chamber pending test results (6-8 hours on average). The tests will be carried out in the National Reference Center for Respiratory Pathogens (UZ Leuven), in Sciensano (the Belgian Institute for Health) and soon in the UZA laboratory.

If the test result is negative (i.e. 2019-nCoV was not found), the person is allowed to go home.

If the test result is positive (i.e., 2019-nCoV has been found), the person will remain in hospital isolation until the disease is over.


Lets go into plain calculation for the case "USA", based on the clinical test data from above.
327.2 million inhabitants (? ... from Wikipedia)
Effective 6-8 hours of obligatory isolation WAIT-time for every person tested on the virus, I take 7 hours average.
Makes an average of... 2.29 Billion (!!!!!) total quarentaine wait time hours IN isolation cells (where are they?) for the whole of the USA.
People who say "everybody should be tested" are absolutely lunatic. All research centres and hospitals KNOW it's impossible, and even 1/1000 th of that number is exhausting capacity, all labs in the USA probably cannot meet, whatever they try or say.
Even worse. If all labs start shifting all their test capacity into Corona, uncountable other people could die, because they wait on tests for a 1000+ other diseases wich could be life threathening. In other words, shifting "all med-lab power" on the Corona, is a killer for everybody else, in need for help on other diseases.
The idea "everybody should be tested", is the most lunatic UN-real political viewpoint anyone can make...
Very sorry about that.

March 11, 2020 at 10:32 AM

Robert said - Leaders are in a tough spot now. This is Very true.... But our current person acts like a 5-year-old.... (Sorry to those actually like Trump) I am trying not to make this too political, but we have a problem in leadership. Or lack thereof…

This is a huge problem. Millions have zero confidence in the White House. Heck two weeks ago Trump said – we have like 15 cases and they will all be gone in a week…. This is the stuff I am talking about… He is a fool. Period.

The virus may not be his fault, but he is clueless on what to do. In Jan 2018 He got rid of the pandemic response team which might have greatly helped to contain this as soon as it hit the USA. Having so many Acting dept heads also is a total joke. Acting HHS, Acting SEC DEF…

This is a serious and mean virus. It kills 3.5% of folks that get virus compared to the seasonal Flu which kills .05% that are infected. We all have to fight hard, keep hands clean and do not go out if you are ill.. I told my wife we will most likely not be going to our annual trip in May. I believe today I will be canceling my flights. Maybe re-book for Sept or October assuming this will be gone by then.

This is a tough and stressful time for all of us. I wish you all clean hands and good luck.

March 11, 2020 at 10:50 AM

Robert - thank you. Truly the most comprehensive and sensible article I’ve read. We’re right in the middle of it in Seattle - many, if not most of us, are already working from home, and it’s rumored our governor will ban gatherings of 250+ people for the next month.
Unfortunately, all this is making a huge impact on small businesses losing their customer base for the time being.
My mother is 87 and suffers from respiratory issues. My fear is for her and many other elderly. People need to realize this is who we’re trying to protect with these measures.

March 11, 2020 at 11:28 AM

Excellent article, Robert! Well thought out. All of our lives are going to change in some way in the almost immediate future. As to theme parks, I just got an email from Six Flags detailing new sanitation protocols but saying nothing about closing the parks. I was actually scheduled to fly to the UK in April in order to visit Alton Towers for the 4th time and Blackpool Pleasure Beach for the 1st time but am cancelling the trip and hoping that I can get my money back. As someone who is over sixty, immunocompromised and with lung disease, I run a high risk of fatal complications from the coronavirus. I am trying not to panic.

March 11, 2020 at 2:22 PM

Thanks for the kind words, everyone. ICYMI, the Tokyo Disney theme parks and Universal Studios Japan just delayed their planned reopenings, and Tokyo Disneyland postponed the grand opening of its new attractions by at least a month. So we're still away from getting back to "normal."

BTW, if you like original articles such as this one - whether here on Theme Park Insider or elsewhere - the best thing you can do to support them is to share their links on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. It’s distressing to see how much crud from bots and ad campaigns pollutes those feeds these days, so an honest endorsement about a link from a real person shines through - and drives traffic to writers who need it! Thanks.

March 11, 2020 at 1:28 PM

Some people just can't leave politics out of it. Please stop. It makes you look petty. And posting a disclaimer about not trying to be too political and then going ahead and being too political is ridiculous.

We have a lot of hype and not enough solid information concerning Covid-19. We could be overreacting, and we could be under-reacting. Only time will tell. The best thing to do is listen to the experts, try to act appropriately, and keep everything in context.

BTW - Great article, Robert!

March 11, 2020 at 1:50 PM

So sorry Tim if you are butt hurt... The truth is the Truth. Getting rid pandemic response team in Jan 2018 was a huge mistake.

Appointing white rich folks to top agencies is a mistake. Saying we have 15 COVID-19 cases and not to worry, is a mistake...

How many missteps do you need before you wake up. This is a disaster.

You said - not enough solid information concerning Covid-19 - Are you drunk?
I just read an article about a 48 year old man that was inches away from death and read his last rights. 48 and healthy... Could not breath, said he was living one hour at a time.

I would rather be petty than ignorant.... Enjoy....

March 11, 2020 at 9:39 PM

Actually, Brian, I'm not butt hurt as you like to call it. I just don't want to hear anyone's politics on a theme park website. Not mine, not yours, not anybody's. There are places where you can go where you can express whatever opinions you have on politics. I come here to get away from the incivility of the world and enjoy news about theme parks.

As far as waking up or being drunk - I'm trying to keep perspective. Being a little older does that to you. So far in my life I've managed to survive:
-the threat of nuclear annihilation
-world over population
-world food shortages
-the threat of a new ice age due to pollution
-global warming due to pollution
-the hole in the ozone layer due to ODCs
-a shortage of helium due to party balloons
-the Y2K crisis
-the herpes epidemic
-the AIDS epidemic
-the SARS epidemic
-the MERS epidemic, and
-the Ebola virus

These were all very serious issues at the time (except for that helium shortage), but we now have some perspective on them.

Here's some more perspective. In the US in 2018:
-16,300 people diagnosed with AIDS died (specific cause of death not defined)
-61,100 people died from influenza-related illnesses
-11,500 people died in accidents caused by drunk driving
-5,600 people died from hepatitis
-67,300 people died from drug overdoses
-250,000 people died from sepsis
-14,600 people died due to gun violence

But people aren't freaking out about these problems because except for drunk driving deaths, they largely view themselves as being immune from them because they primarily affect old people and gay men and drug abusers and low income people. But somebody still died.

The average American isn't too worried about those deaths because they happen to someone else. But people are getting scared by Covid-19 because it could happen to them, and that's personal.

So, for me, it doesn't matter what the president says or does or what CNN says or does, I'm going to look at the statistics, listen to the experts, and make the most sensible decisions for me and my family. Knocking the current administration or the last administration or the Chinese government doesn't make my situation any better. Reading articles about anecdotal situations isn't going to help either. I'm going to try to keep perspective, and that's the best I can do.

March 12, 2020 at 3:12 AM

So very interresting, Tim.
"...... listen to the experts, and make the most sensible decisions for me and my family"
Perhaps, you missed the point that those measures installed or not (due to political decisionmaking or the lack thereoff) are there to protect NON-related OTHERS, not 'you and your family'.
(Being probably even older then you, to view things in good perspective ? :-) )

March 12, 2020 at 7:49 AM

Um, Herwig, I didn't miss that point at all. As someone who works for the federal government, I'm well aware that the government is supposed to act in the interests of society as a whole and not in the specific interests of a few individuals. Sometimes we fail. but for the most part we muddle along and try not to mess things up too badly.

As someone who lives along the coastline and has been without power and normal living conditions for several days due to hurricanes, I'm also aware that I have a responsibility to take care of my family's basic needs until public agencies and private organizations re-establish basic services.

The same guidance applies to the Covid-19 virus. Make sober, informed decisions. Don't make the problem worse. Take care of my health needs to the best of my ability should disaster strike. And don't waste my time blaming the problem on my pet enemies and looking silly.

March 12, 2020 at 9:43 AM

@Tim. Unfortunately though, politics are quite relevant at the moment, when it comes to theme parks. Trump’s address yesterday, for example, will absolutely have an affect on them. Can’t really ignore that.

March 12, 2020 at 10:09 AM

Tim bellies up to his computer, adjust his red hat and tries to Teach us about illnesses in the 80’s. Which are all irrelevant to our current pandemic. He thinks somehow a sexual transmitted diseases are the same as an airborne virus.

What you don’t understand Tim, is that we need leadership, information and a plan. We had a pandemic response Team to head off and contain outbreaks. But somehow this team was fired in January of 2018 because the ignorant person in charge had a hunch that we did not need them. So yes, this is political since many mistakes had been made by the WH.

The NBA just stopped all games, The NCAA tournament will be played with no fans. The NHL will soon also be on hold. Do you still need as you said more information? Did Fox news not tell what to think yet?

So let me ask you this, Did you watch the President on Fed 27th where he said we only have 15 cases and they will be gone soon… Everyone was sounding the alarm on how serious this is and he took it as a joke. Did you see him last night, reading from the tel…e….promp…ter

The stock market has lost all the gains from the last Three years… Have you had enough pain yet or do you still need more info as you said…?

This is when we need leadership and a plan of attack, Simpleton in charge wants to not allow flights from Europe to the US… The virus is already here therefore it’s too late. He should have taken the threat seriously had a plan, but again he got rid of the pandemic team and created a big mess. Heck we don’t even have the test kits available. This is a huge failure.

Tim we as a people need to call out the mistakes and force change. Make the Gov't work in our best interest. As on older person you should be the most worried about this mess since you are more at risk than others.

March 12, 2020 at 10:26 AM

@80sMan. Politics are always relevant - on a macro scale. But nobody wants to hear my political opinions except for me. Does my like or dislike of Donald Trump or Barack Obama matter or does it make my life better? I don't think it does.

I also don't get the hatred. Do we have to paint people as the Antichrist just because we disagree with them politically? From my point of view, if somebody is willing to give up control over so much of their life to sit in the office of the President, they must love their country as much or more so than I do. I may disagree with their policies, but I'm going to respect them as a person. Denigrating them because I want to stand on the faux moral high ground only reduces me in the eyes of others.

March 12, 2020 at 10:58 AM

@Brian Emery. I don't think you're ever going to get my position simply because you don't want to.

If you want to use the current situation to blame the people in charge because you don't like them or their politics - go ahead. It still doesn't relieve you of your personal responsibility to make the wisest decisions for you and your family. Misguided faith in government to provide the solutions will only result in greater frustration on your part.

I'm simply trying to be as sensible as I can be about this situation on a personal basis, look at it through a historical perspective, and minimize the problem as much as possible for myself and the people around me.

One day - six months or a year out - the crisis will be over. We'll have a vaccine. We'll have a better perspective on the Covid-19 virus. The stock market will have recovered; and we'll all wonder what the big fuss was about. But then we'll be on to the next crisis, won't we?

March 12, 2020 at 11:03 AM

The economic fallout from this is obviously huge but as an investor now is also a good time to make lemonade out of lemons. If you have very little to no debt, and aren't worried about losing your job, now is a great time to buy American business on clearance sale.

There's a saying in real estate "the money is made at the buy." IDK about you all but i'm spending a lot of $$ buying America right now and not slowing down until the virus problem has passed.

March 12, 2020 at 11:02 AM

Ohhhh, it gets even more interesting !
Politicians now get a status of holy people, and nobody has the right to oppose them because they are the ultimate holy "own country lovers" !!?? Yes indeed !
Every time, Tim, you just wrote what you wrote. Your own wordings are very much political.
(I think, Robert will close off comments soon, here :-) )

March 12, 2020 at 12:23 PM

Tim says - What is the big fuss. People are dying, markets crashing, monies being wiped out, then the layoffs... What is the Fuss?

I guess you can't answer the simple fact the pandemic response team was fired in Jan of 2018.. Just keep ignoring Trump saying we have 15 cases and it will be gone on a few days...

Whistling by the graveyard...
Yes we the people will hold those responsible.

March 12, 2020 at 12:48 PM

I know there's a language barrier there Herwig, but your logic and your radical extrapolation of comments far beyond their context are totally flawed.

Being overly cynical is a very immature and irresponsible way to treat the people around us whether they are in positions of power or not. If anything, I'm trying to humanize our political leaders, and I'm trying to give them the benefit of the doubt, and extend them the same courtesy that I would like if I were in their position.

March 12, 2020 at 12:57 PM

Gee, Brian, I didn't know I was supposed to put on my Carnac the Magnificent hat and answer all of your questions.

Let's postpone further discussion for about a year, and then we'll see where we stand. Any argument now is just pure panic and blame throwing.

March 12, 2020 at 1:37 PM

@Tim, take a step back from what you think of Trump as a person, and whether you agree or disagree with his politics. Surely you understand that saying "When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we've done.", isn’t a good thing. Surely you recognise that making a public address and giving inaccurate information isn’t a good thing, and surely you can appreciate that, in the same speech, emphasising that the disease originated from China and calling it a “foreign disease” is quite an irresponsible thing to say. It achieves nothing, but it could have, potentially, dangerous ramifications. There are already instances of Asian people - innocent people - being physically and verbally attacked, because of this virus. People are scared and paranoid, and when some of those people are also racist and xenophobic, that is NOT a good thing! Right now, our leaders are only adding to the fear and confusion.

March 12, 2020 at 2:23 PM

@80sman. I'm curious why a Brit cares so much about the behavior of the leader of the United States. Surely you have more than enough on your hands with Boris Johnson, don't you?

March 12, 2020 at 2:51 PM

Tim I have nothing against you, I just want you to understand the mishaps by this Gov't. Getting rid of the pandemic response team in Jan 2018 was a huge mistake. Not listing to experts and just doing what he wants or has a hunch is a joke.

I just want you to know I am not mad at you. I do enjoy all opinions. Even if they are ill informed. Remember, you said you need more info? All sports are canceled. Isn't that enough for you?

We all want this damn virus to slow down but we need help for the Fed and we are only getting watered down dribble.... This virus spread faster because Idiot said we have this under control. Just last week Kelly Ann and Kudlow said we have it contained... All lies....

March 12, 2020 at 3:07 PM

@Tim yes, you’re not wrong there, and that’s a whole other discussion! However, Trump’s speech only happened last night, and was seen across the world. Therefore, it stands to reason that it will be forefront in many people’s minds. But ok, deflect away.

March 12, 2020 at 3:54 PM

Guys, I defended Barack Obama to my conservative friends and I defend Donald Trump to my liberal friends. They're politicians, they're human, and I never agreed entirely with either one of them, but I try to let my politics end at the ballot box. If I don't like something, I'll send a letter to my congressman and senators, but beyond that, I have very little control over what the folks in power do.

What I do have control over though is what I do and how I think. With Covid-19, I'm as scared as everybody else, but I'm trying to keep a rational attitude about it, and I just don't see the point to playing the blame game. I'm focused on doing the things that will allow me and my loved ones to survive the next three months. Everything else outside of that is just a distraction.

Brian, I agree with 90% of what you post (outside of this thread), and I try to focus on that.

80sMan, good catch on the deflection.

March 12, 2020 at 4:54 PM

".... I know there's a language barrier there Herwig ...."
Even that you seem to know ? Magical !
Ohhh, Still more amazing !
It seems the virtual language barrier is growing even bigger with your compatriots, then ! ? :-)
Hilarious :-)
I'm all in line with Brian, and 80sMan
They seem to be responsible, knowledgible, clear thinking

Your arguments are becoming more ridiculous with the hour. Language barrier... oh my goodness !

By the way , copy paste :
"...... I'm focused on doing the things that will allow me and my loved ones to survive the next three months. Everything else outside of that is just a distraction. ...."
There you just posted again a proof of the fact you missed out the fact that official measures taken (or not) against the spread of the virus, are not about protecting "yourself" , but about protecting unrelated OTHERS. By repeating your stance in those wordings, discussion about the bigger frame seems to be clearly closed off through your personal egoism ? Oh yes, there is a language barrier ... HAHAHAHA

March 12, 2020 at 5:16 PM

Herwig, here's a bit of advice for both of us courtesy of Mark Twain:

Never argue with a fool; onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.

March 12, 2020 at 5:31 PM

Here in Scotland, we've just banned gatherings of over 500. But not for fears of it spreading... Apparently the science doesn't support that. The ban is simply to ensure that other resources aren't overtaxed, those gatherings require preparations from the health system that could be put elsewhere. My wife is supposed to have a Cladribrine treatment for MS, but that's been scrubbed - apparently messing with people's immune systems is not a good idea right now.

March 12, 2020 at 9:04 PM

Might be a little too late for that advice.

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