The group that lobbies California’s state government on behalf of theme park giants like Disneyland and Universal Hollywood is publicly pressuring California Gov. Gavin Newsom to issue guidelines to allow the state’s theme parks to reopen.
California’s theme parks shut down in mid-March as the COVID-19 outbreak turned into a pandemic. While their counterparts in other states, including the hotbed of Central Florida, moved forward with reopening even as COVID-19 case numbers rose during the summer, California parks have remained closed during the state’s own summer surge.
Since issuing a new framework for reopening California businesses in August, Gov. Gavin Newsom has been repeatedly asked when it will issue guidelines for theme parks. Newsom has only said discussions are progressing, while movie theaters, restaurants and shopping malls are being allowed to resume operations at limited capacity in places like Orange County, which is home to both Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm.
In a statement to the Orange County Register, California Attractions and Parks Association executive director Erin Guerrero urged Newsom to issue reopening guidelines for the theme park industry “so these vital community attractions can reopen their doors in a responsible manner” and let their employees return to work.
Here is the rest of Guerrero’s statement:
“Six months ago California’s amusement parks and attractions made the difficult decision to close voluntarily in response to COVID — and the impacts have been devastating. Tens of thousands of jobs have been weighing in the balance. Hundreds of millions of tax revenue that support critical local, state, and federal programs, lost. And local businesses that rely on amusement parks continue to struggle, with many closing permanently.
“Over those six months, parks crafted detailed plans to reopen — they include capacity reductions, face covering requirements, robust health and safety protocols for both guests and employees, and significant modifications to support physical distancing. These practices will promote health and safety in ways that many activities Californians are currently engaging in won’t. However, in order to reopen, parks require guidance from the state and that guidance has not been forthcoming.
“As evidenced by the many open amusement parks in the United States and around the world, visiting an attraction will not look the same as before COVID, but California’s amusement parks are ready to responsibly reopen.”
In another Orange County Register article published Monday, no COVID-19 outbreaks have been connected to visitors to Florida theme parks, or other parks operating in Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey. There were also no outbreaks linked to Virginia theme parks — where reopening has been limited to a hard-ticket event at Busch Gardens Williamsburg — or Michigan and Illinois, which only allowed water parks to reopen.
While the CAPA statement focuses on parks’ health and safety protocols, The Daily Beast recently reported on allegations that Disneyland’s Downtown Disney shopping district was underreporting COVID-19 cases and clearing COVID-positive workers to stay on the job.
“We want to know if any cast members have tested positive. But Disney has taken the position that they’re only going to tell us if our cast members do,” Matt Bell, a spokesperson for UFCW Local 324, one of a dozen unions representing workers at Disneyland, told Daily Beast. “What is supposed to happen is contact tracing—find out who was exposed and quarantine them as well. I can’t confirm that they’ve done that.”
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