{Editor: this op-ed originally appeared in the OC Register on September 18, 2020]

After saving lives, the most critical part of any crisis is recovery.

We have made great progress slowing the spread of coronavirus in Anaheim, Orange County and across California. But our state is failing when it comes to economic recovery.

This week, we mark an unprecedented six months of closure for the theme parks of the Disneyland Resort. For anyone who has ever questioned how critical these are to our economy, now we know.

Anaheim, Orange County’s largest city, faces a $100 million budget deficit that will be felt across our city. Anaheim unemployment is 15 percent, beyond what we saw in the Great Recession. Workers are struggling to pay rent and support their families, while thousands of businesses won’t survive.

Next will be widespread layoffs at some of our largest employers as they struggle with major revenue losses and a lack of a clear reopening roadmap.

Mayor Harry Sidhu

If coronavirus weren’t enough, in the making is a second crisis in the form of an economic collapse that would go beyond anything we’ve seen in our lifetime.

That’s saying a lot for those who lived through the Great Recession, our last national crisis.

It was devastating. Families lost homes, savings disappeared and workers lost their livelihoods. California unemployment reached a post-Depression high of 12 percent. And while the Great Recession itself lasted only 18 months, the effects were felt for years.

In a shorter amount of time, we’ve surpassed the depths of the Great Recession.

In my city alone, 26,000 people are out of work. They are among 300,000 jobless in Orange County and 2.5 million across the state.

For some, unemployment benefits have helped ease the pain. But the system has failed nearly half of those unemployed and unable to access state benefits.

Make no mistake. This is not a choice between our health and the economy.

There is a path forward that works to contain coronavirus while allowing people to support their families, pay their rent and restore our economy.

We are already living it. Grocery and other essential stores, banks, restaurants, healthcare, public safety and critical services have been operating since Day One.

Of course, there have been some cases. But, overall, these businesses have embraced California’s guidelines and shown us how to operate in a pandemic.

Now we need the same opportunity for our largest businesses, starting with our theme parks.

Anaheim’s theme parks were the first Disney parks to close worldwide. And they’re the only ones yet to see a reopening.

Across California, beaches, zoos and aquariums are open and drawing thousands of people. With decades of experience, we know Anaheim’s theme parks can manage visitors responsibly.

We have a model for the safe reopening of Disney theme parks in Florida, Europe and Asia, including in Shanghai, just west of the coronavirus epicenter of Wuhan, China.

In Anaheim, Disney’s reopening of shopping and dining at Downtown Disney shows what a responsible and managed reopening of our theme parks would like.

There is nothing more important to Anaheim’s economy. But this isn’t just about Anaheim.

As California’s largest private employer, the Disneyland Resort directly employs more than 32,000 people and supports nearly 100,000 other jobs across our region.

In the words of Gov. Newsom, “You can’t be in a permanent state where people are locked away for months and months on end to see lives and livelihoods completely destroyed.”

These words can serve as a call to action or as prophecy for a devastating, extended downturn.

Anaheim has joined California and led Orange County in mandating face coverings, expanding testing, addressing our hardest hit neighborhoods and embracing state business guidelines to operate responsibly.

With the progress we’ve made, the choice is clear. The time for action on reopening guidance and recovery planning is now. And, in Anaheim, that must start with our theme parks.

Harry Sidhu is mayor of Anaheim.