The war of words between California theme parks and Gov. Gavin Newsom continued Friday.
Six Flags Magic Mountain called on Newsom to issue different reopening guidelines than his administration had initially proposed — which the industry had vocally opposed last week.
“We are asking the state to provide us with achievable next steps in order for California’s theme park industry to successfully come back to life,” Magic Mountain said in a statement. “We are more than ready and eager to reopen our park.”
Los Angeles County, the home of Magic Mountain, reported 1,256 new COVID-19 cases and 13 additional deaths on Friday. The county remains in the most restrictive “purple” tier of the state’s reopening plan, will remain there for at least three more weeks based on current case rates.
The Six Flags chain has reopened theme parks in other states during the pandemic, including in other states with Democratic governors, such as New Jersey’s Six Flags Great Adventure. Illinois allowed Six Flags’ two Hurricane Harbor water parks in the state to welcome back guests, but not Six Flags Great America.
The rest of the states where Six Flags was allowed to reopen its parks all have Republican governors: Texas, Georgia, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Missouri. Massachusetts, home to Six Flags New England, also has a Republican governor, but the park has remained closed.
The Six Flags parks that have reopened did so with safety measures including limiting capacity, enforcing physical distancing and requiring face masks be worn by guests and employees.
After Gov. Newsom’s comments on Wednesday that the state is in “no hurry” to reissue guidelines to allow theme parks to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Disneyland adopted safety recommendations from the Orange County Health Care Agency, which supports an earlier reopening. This included adding more hand sanitizer stations at rides, ground markings inside restrooms and Spanish language signs on new health measures, according to the Orange County Register.
NYT: COVID-19 worries at Disney World haven’t come to fruition
One of the oft-repeated arguments for reopening California theme parks and Disneyland is that no COVID-19 outbreaks have been tied to parks reopening in Central Florida, including at Disney World.
The New York Times examined this argument and found that Disney’s pandemic safety measures really do appear to be working.
“So far — so far — it has been a success story,” said Julee Jerkovich, an official for United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1625 at Disney World. “As a union rep, I do not say that lightly.”
Disney World announced in late May that it would reopen its parks on July 11, more than a month after local rival Universal Orlando. In that span, however, Florida saw a surge in COVID-19 cases, meaning Disney reopened when the pandemic was hitting its peak regionally. But Disney World stayed open and Florida’s case numbers have fallen, though staying well above their April and May levels.
Anne Rimoin, an epidemiology professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, told The Times that she remains concerned about Disney World being a COVID-19 hot spot.
“Just because we don’t have ample evidence of it happening — yet — doesn’t mean it’s not happening,” Rimoin said. “There is simply no zero-risk scenario here. When you create opportunities for large numbers of people to come together, you are providing opportunities for the virus to spread.”
Orlando Sentinel dives into Florida’s self-reporting theme park injury system
Would you describe multiple fractures as “foot pain?” Or say you “felt ill” when you had a stroke? That’s what Central Florida theme parks have done when reporting theme park injuries to the state of Florida, according to lawsuits.
The Orlando Sentinel took a deeper look at how Florida parks report injuries to guests. As part of a deal to avoid state inspections, parks self-report any injuries or illnesses on rides that require at least a 24-hour hospital stay to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Those injuries are then reported publicly on a quarterly basis.
That system doesn’t involve the state verifying parks’ reports and there is no punishment if the likes of Disney or Universal were to downplay a guest’s injury. Changing the reporting requirements would take legislators going up against the theme park giants — not an easy task, considering the millions in political cash that the theme parks spend.
“There has to be the political will to do it,” Ben Wilcox of the nonprofit Integrity Florida told the Sentinel. “In the past, that political will has just not been there. It’s been because of the hold that these industries have on our Legislature and state policymakers.”
More Theme Park News:
Disney layoffs: 8,857 part-timers at Disney World, 1,800 more at Disneyland losing jobs
Universal releases coaster stats on upcoming Jurassic World VelociCoaster
Fun Spot Orlando given failing grades on COVID-19 safety in secret shopper reports