What happened

Shares of Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) fell on Thursday as states across the country struggle to contain the spread of COVID-19. As of 12:33 p.m. EDT, Disney's stock was down more than 5%.

So what

There are now more than 2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. Worse still, 113,000 Americans have died from the disease. 

In recent days, more than a dozen states have reported a record number of new COVID-19 cases. Health officials -- many of whom have long warned of a second wave of infections -- are now also cautioning that the first wave is far from over. 

An amusement park ride with no people on it.

COVID-19 could cause Disney's parks to remain empty. Image source: Getty Images.

In addition to the terrible loss of life and widespread economic carnage that spiking coronavirus infections could bring about, the crisis is also likely to have a particularly negative impact on Disney's business. If people grow more fearful of getting sick -- or worse, of their children getting sick -- they may rightfully choose to avoid Disney's crowded parks and resorts after they reopen.

Now what

Until a vaccine or effective treatment for COVID-19 is developed, Disney's parks, resorts, and cruise lines will not be the profit drivers that they were before the pandemic. Fortunately for Disney's shareholders, Disney+ is benefiting from the stay-at-home trend. The new streaming service already has more than 54 million subscribers, and millions more will likely subscribe in the coming months and years. So, although major parts of Disney's empire will continue to suffer during the COVID-19 crisis, the entertainment colossus should be able to weather the storm.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.