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Disney rebukes California for not letting them open theme parks

The guidelines state that California amusement parks like Disneyland and Universal Studios will have to wait until their counties reach the least restrictive tier.

Ari Hoffman Seattle, WA
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In a scathing rebuke of California government officials, Disneyland President Ken Potrock issued a statement that the new guidelines, released Tuesday by Governor Gavin Newsom's office, ignored the work that the park has put in to reopen safely.

"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."

The guidelines state that California amusement parks like Disneyland and Universal Studios will have to wait until their counties reach the least restrictive tier the state has established for reopening businesses.

To reach the least restrictive tier, also known as the "yellow" tier, a county must have a seven-day adjusted average of less than one daily case per 100,000 people and a seven-day average positivity rate of less than 2 percent that does not disproportionately impact disadvantaged populations.

Major theme parks will only be allowed to reopen in the yellow tier, and even then, with only 25 percent capacity and other health restrictions. Smaller theme parks will be able to open outdoor attractions, if and when their home counties reach the orange, or "moderate," tier of the reopening roadmap.

Local businesses and employees who need to get back to work and rely on park attendees to support their industries have been calling on the Disneyland to reopen, but unions and others are asking for more caution before reopening the parks.

"Personally, I think that we can look forward to a yellow tier by next summer, hopefully. Hopefully," said Dr. Clayton Chau, director of the Orange County Health Care Agency.

Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly was not so optimistic about a summer re-opening, admitting that under the guidance, there is no way to know when major theme parks will be able to reopen, since the decision will be dependent on countywide COVID-19 cases.

"I think there's lot of work we can do together... to do what we can to reduce transmission in our counties, and there is a path forward there,'' he said. "We do not know when, but we do know how.''

Disneyland employs about 30,000 people, according to the company. Disney had previously announced in September that that it would lay off 28,000 US employees, laying the blame on reduced capacity at its theme parks due to social distancing requirements, as well as California's "unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen."

"We have made the very difficult decision to begin the process of reducing our workforce at our Parks, Experiences and Products segment at all levels, having kept non-working cast members on furlough since April while paying healthcare benefits," Josh D'Amaro, Disney Parks chair, said in a statement. "Approximately 28,000 domestic employees will be affected, of which about 67 percent are part time."

Governor Newsom's original plan to reopen California said the "highest risk" venues like concert halls, convention centers and sports stadiums shouldn't reopen until "therapeutics have been developed."

The downtown Disney shopping and dining area reopened July 9 in accordance with California's restaurant and retail opening guidelines. The reopening was affected by Newsom's rules announced July 1, which involve closing down all bars as well as the indoor portions of restaurants. It also included operational hours of 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Conversely, theme parks in Florida, like Disney World are open for business. Disney reopened the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom on July 11, with Epcot and Hollywood Studios following on July 15. Orlando's Disney parks have social distancing and wellness measures, including temperature screenings, mask wearing, social distancing and a guest reservation system to limit capacity. Fireworks, parades and character meet and greets have been suspended. Disney World resorts and hotels began reopening in late June.

According to Heathline as of this week “Florida has the fourth highest number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients with 2,057, about the same as last week. California is second with 2,241 patients, about the same as it was a week ago.” California was third nationally with 20,596 new cases, a decrease of 9 percent. Florida was fourth overall with 20,529 new cases, a jump of 14 percent. California is still number one nationally in cases while Florida is third.

Reviewing the data of the two states may be more evidence to support the recent policy change by the WHO urging world leaders to stop using lockdowns as a primary virus control method as Florida has re-opened and California has largely remained locked down.

"We in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus," Dr. David Nabarro said to The Spectator’s Andrew Neil. "The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganize, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted, but by and large, we’d rather not do it."

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