After weeks of foot-dragging despite desperate pleas from business, labor and civic leaders, the Newsom Administration today finally announced re-opening guidelines for California’s theme parks – which have been closed for more than seven months.
However, the news was grim: the bottom line is that under Governor Newsom’s rules, major theme parks like the Disneyland Resort and Knott’s Berry Farm will likely remain closed until at least summer 2021, and quite possibly longer.
The Disneyland Resort’s closure has had a devastating economic impact on Anaheim, resulting in growing business closures, staggering unemployment and a violent drop in city tax revenues. A business-labor-civic coalition has been pressing the Governor to issue re-opening guidelines that recognize Disney’s success in safely re-opening all of its other theme parks.
Reality: Newsom Rules Postpone Disneyland Re-Opening Until Late 2021
The Governor has decreed to two different reopening guidelines for larger theme parks like the Disneyland Resort and smaller theme parks like Adventure City in Stanton. They can re-open at limited capacity depending on where the county in which they are located land on the Governor’s newish Blueprint for a Safe – the latest in a series of re-opening schemes promulgated by the Newsom Administration.
Small theme parks in “moderate” Orange tier counties can re-open now, while large theme parks cannot re-open until their county makes it to the “minimal” Yellow tier.
OC currently is in the Orange tier and experiencing 4.6 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people. That number has to get down to no more than 1 case per 100,000 for OC in order to progress to the Yellow tier.
The county’s chief health officer, Dr. Clayton Chau, doesn’t think OC will progress to Yellow until late summer at the earliest.
“I think for a large county like us, especially a county with institutions of higher education where folks are coming in from outside the county and outside the state, it will be very hard to achieve the yellow tier,” Chau told the OC Board of Supervisors yesterday. “It depends on when the vaccine will come as well as how many doses [are] available for our populations as well as how many of our residents will readily accept the vaccine – those are the three factors that will determine how soon we can get to the yellow tier … personally, I think that we can look forward to a yellow tier by next summer, hopefully. Hopefully.”
Newsom’s secretary of health, Dr. Mark Ghaly, said yesterday he has no idea when Orange County will enter the “Yellow” tier.
Business-Civic-Labor Coalition Pushes Back On Newsom
Unsurprisingly, the Newsom Administration’s de facto extension of Disneyland’s closure well into 2021 generated a negative reaction from Anaheim civic and business leaders.
“These are not guidelines for re-opening,” said Anaheim Chamber of Commerce President Todd Ament. “They are a death sentence for the thousands of businesses and tens of thousands of jobs that depend on our theme parks.”
Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock blasted the Newsom Administration policy for ignoring the company’s proven ability to operate its theme parks safely and responsibly during the pandemic:
“We have proven that we can responsibly reopen, with science-based health and safety protocols strictly enforced at our theme park properties around the world. Nevertheless, the State of California continues to ignore this fact, instead mandating arbitrary guidelines that it knows are unworkable and that hold us to a standard vastly different from other reopened businesses and state-operated facilities. Together with our labor unions we want to get people back to work, but these State guidelines will keep us shuttered for the foreseeable future, forcing thousands more people out of work, leading to the inevitable closure of small family-owned businesses, and irreparably devastating the Anaheim/Southern California community.”
Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu denounced the Governor’s decision.
These guidelines fail working families and small businesses,” said Sidhu. “As painful as this is, Disney and the city of Anaheim will survive. But too many Anaheim hotels, stores and restaurants will not survive another year of this.”
“Many are family businesses,” the mayor continued. “The jobs they provide support other families. We can safely and responsibly re-open our theme parks and convention center soon.”
The state association of theme parks is currently weighing possible legal action to force an expedited re-opening for large theme parks.
“All options are open at this point,” Erin Guerrero, executive director of the Californian Attractions and Parks Association, said during a news conference Wednesday.