On Sunday, March 15, the City of Santa Monica made the unprecedented decision to close the Pier amid concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.
At all levels of the government, authorities passed sweeping measures to limit peoples’ potential exposure to the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. The virus is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China. The virus quickly spread from China to Europe, the Middle East, and the United States.
At the time of writing, there were over 85,000 individuals in the United States who contracted the virus; 1,400 of those lived in Los Angeles County. Although the number seems relatively low for a state of over 40 million residents, government officials began enacting measures to prevent widespread infection that was experienced in countries like Italy and Spain. Preventative measures included the temporary closure of public places where people could potentially spread the virus like schools, restaurants, and entertainment destinations including the Santa Monica Pier.
Although the Pier has been standing over the waters of the Pacific for over 110 years, it has not always been a popular entertainment destination. However, for much of its operational life, the Pier has been home to various entertainment facilities including the famed LaMonica Ballroom, wooden roller coaster called the Blue Streak, and the Looff Hippodrome which still stands to this day. Over the decades the Pier has been closed to the public on numerous occasions for repairs and maintenance. On occasion, the City, Harbor Patrol and Lifeguards have made the decision to close parts or all of the Pier for safety reasons including severe weather.
Santa Monica Pier was not alone in these public closures. Other California retail and entertainment destinations, amusement parks, and retail outlets closed amid concerns over the spread of the coronavirus. On Saturday March 7th, Disneyland closed it gates to the public for only the 3rd time in the park’s history. Universal Studios, Six Flags Magic Mountain, and Legoland all followed as local and state officials continued to place restrictions on public gatherings, food service delivery, and large events.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided guidelines and information on their website cdc.gov/coronavirus/. Their site includes up-to-date information about the number of cases, measures you can take to reduce the chance of contracting the virus, and a guide for helping determine if you might have become infected.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health also launched a micro-site with regularly updated information about the outbreak including a summary of cases in LA County. Their site, publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/Coronavirus includes many resources for residents, healthcare professionals and businesses dealing with the threat of outbreak.
Closer to the Pier, the City of Santa Monica amassed resources and information at santamonica.gov/coronavirus. City Manager Rick Cole provides daily video briefings of how the City was responding to National and State mandates to close public areas. The site also includes the City communications and ordinances to both close public areas like schools, beaches, and restaurants, but also ease food delivery and logistics by relieving parking restrictions in critical areas of the City.
The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAPPA), of which Pacific Park is a member, also collected resources and information specific to amusement park operators on their site, iaapa.org. As an international organization, IAPPA was able to share best practices from amusement parks affected by the outbreak early on in China and Italy to amusement parks in the United States, including Pacific Park. This shared learning and resource delivery are key benefits of a globally connected industry.