Topline

California state lawmakers called on Gov. Gavin Newsom Tuesday to let Disneyland and other theme parks reopen as local pressure builds on state leadership to end theme park closures six months after they were instituted, while Florida—home to Walt Disney World—is now allowing theme parks to resume normal operations and capacity.

Key Facts

19 state legislators sent a letter to Newsom Tuesday calling on him to “promptly” give the theme park industry guidance so it can reopen, noting that theme parks in other states have not been traced back to any major outbreaks.

The letter comes amid a local campaign being waged by Anaheim and other Disneyland-area cities calling for the park’s reopening, and an announcement Tuesday that Disney’s parks division would lay off 28,000 U.S. employees partially in response to the Disneyland closure.

Disneyland has also publicly pleaded with Newsom to let the park reopen, and while the California governor said in mid-September that theme park reopening guidelines would be coming “very, very shortly,” they have yet to be released.

Under Florida’s Phase 3 guidelines, which took effect Friday, the state’s theme parks are now allowed to “return to normal operations with limited social distancing protocols” and have full capacity in their bars and restaurants.

Walt Disney World said in a statement that it was reviewing the guidelines and would not make any “immediate changes” to its current operations, as the park currently limits capacity in its parks, restaurants and stores, and requires all guests to wear masks or other approved face coverings.

Disney does not publicly release capacity figures, but Florida theme park guests report a recent noticeable increase in crowds—crowd data compiled by third-party companies suggest this past weekend was the busiest since the parks reopened in July—and Walt Disney World has taken some recent steps to expand its park hours and ticket sales.

Crucial Quote

“I encourage you to treat theme parks like you would other sectors. Help us reopen,” Disney parks chairman Josh D’Amaro told California state officials at a virtual press conference last week pushing for the park’s reopening. “It’s time.”

Key Background

Disney’s theme park reopenings have become a major source of controversy amid the Covid-19 pandemic, as Walt Disney World attracted widespread criticism for reopening in July as cases in Florida surged. The company’s parks division lost $2 billion in its third quarter as a result of the ongoing closures, and Disney CEO Bob Chapek said on the company’s Q3 earnings call in August that Walt Disney World attendance at the time had not rebounded as much as the company had hoped. Disneyland is now the only Disney theme park still closed worldwide, as the company has reopened its parks internationally—most recently Hong Kong Disneyland, which reopened for the second time last week after temporarily being forced to close amid a rise in local Covid-19 cases. While Disneyland’s two theme parks remain closed, the resort’s Downtown Disney shopping district has reopened, and official social media accounts indicate the area has regularly hit its limited capacity restrictions. Disneyland employees have raised concerns about how the park handles coronavirus cases among its staff, however, according to a recent report by the Daily Beast.

What To Watch For

Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of California’s Health and Human Services Agency, said Tuesday that the state was “getting very close” on issuing reopening plans for theme parks. “We are working hard to get that out in a responsible way,” Ghaly said, saying the guidelines would be coming out “as soon as possible.”

Further Reading

Disney Laying Off 28,000 U.S. Theme Park Employees Amid Closures (Forbes)

19 state legislators call on Newsom to reopen California theme parks (Orange County Register)

Hong Kong Disneyland Reopens For A Second Time As California Theme Park Closure Continues (Forbes)

Disney Exec Pleads With Calif. Governor To Reopen Disneyland (Forbes)

Florida Reopens Economy As Coronavirus Outbreak Fades From Peak, But With Thousands Of New Cases A Day (Forbes)

Disney, Universal Hit Capacity Over Labor Day Weekend, But Theme Parks Still Face Tough Fall (Forbes)

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