Disneyland calls on California to release theme park reopening guidelines

Noble Horvath

by: Tracy Bloom, with reporting by Chip Yost Posted: Sep 16, 2020 / 02:58 PM PDT / Updated: Sep 16, 2020 / 03:06 PM PDT In this file photo taken Wednesday, March 18, 2020, one of the normally bustling entrances to the Disneyland resort is vacant due to the coronavirus […]

In this file photo taken Wednesday, March 18, 2020, one of the normally bustling entrances to the Disneyland resort is vacant due to the coronavirus closure in Anaheim, Calif. Disney is postponing the mid-July reopening of its Southern California theme parks until it receives guidelines from the state. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson,File)

In this file photo taken Wednesday, March 18, 2020, one of the normally bustling entrances to the Disneyland resort is vacant due to the coronavirus closure in Anaheim, Calif. Disney is postponing the mid-July reopening of its Southern California theme parks until it receives guidelines from the state. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson,File)

It’s been six months since the Disney theme parks and hotels in Anaheim shut down due to COVID-19, and on Wednesday, Disneyland called on Gov. Gavin Newsom to release guidelines that would bring them closer to reopening.

“We are disappointed with the state’s lack of progress in providing the industry with guidance and clarity on reopening,” Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock said in a statement. “We have proven we can operate responsibly, with strict health and safety protocols at our properties around the world and at Downtown Disney in Anaheim.”

Downtown Disney resumed operations more than two months ago, with modifications that included temperature screenings, a face mask mandate, social distancing requirements, enhanced cleaning protocols, and the addition of more hand washing and sanitizing stations.

But the monthslong closure of most of the resort — in particular Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, popular destinations for locals and tourists alike — is having a tremendous effect on Anaheim’s finances.

The city faces a $100 million budget deficit, with the unemployment rate ballooning to 15% and 25,000 out of work — with more layoffs potentially looming, according to Anaheim spokesman Mike Lyster. In the county, the total number of people without jobs is nearing 300,000.

Those are points Disney officials underscored Wednesday while asking Gov. Newsom to allow the resort to resume theme park operations.

“Tens of thousands of people’s livelihoods depend on our ability to operate and we stand ready and willing to accelerate discussions with the Governor and his team to make ‘real progress’ toward our reopening and getting people back to work,” Potrock said in the statement.

But the city of Anaheim is hardly alone in its struggles to stay afloat amid the pandemic, and other officials in the county are also calling for guidelines regarding potential reopenings of the local theme parks.

Nearby Garden Grove and Buena Park — home to Knott’s Berry Farm, another amusement park that has been shuttered for months  — are experiencing similar dire situations with their local economies, according to statement from ReopenOCNow, which has launched an online petition urging Newsom to issue plans for theme parks.

“This is not about opening Disneyland for Disney’s sake. This is hard on Disney but they will survive,” Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu said in the statement. “This is about opening Disneyland to save hundreds of small businesses. Tens of thousands of jobs.” 

Sidhu invited the governor to come down to Anaheim to get a firsthand look of the economic devastation there, along with the safety protocols implemented to stem the spread of coronavirus at the theme parks.

Disneyland, which at one point had planned to reopen in mid-July, has already released a number of new health and safety measures the company plans to enforce at its parks once they reopen.

For his part, Newsom indicated last week that the state was preparing to release guidance on theme park reopenings, saying California was “getting closer” to issuing the guidelines.

At a news conference Wednesday, he reiterated that the state will be making announcements soon on that sector. He didn’t provide a time frame for when that would happen, but noted it would be “very shortly.”

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