Disneyland reopening saga: California mayors push Gov. Newsom to allow big theme parks to reopen

Curtis Tate, USA TODAY
·3 min read

The mayors of eight California cities are pushing Gov. Gavin Newsom to consider allowing large theme parks such as Disneyland to reopen sooner than new state guidelines allow.

Otherwise, the mayors warned, the guidelines could mean the parks have to stay closed for as long as a year, threatening jobs and economic recovery in their communities.

Such a timeframe "would have significant negative impacts on hundreds of thousands of jobs, thousands of small businesses, and billions in operating revenue for our cities," the mayors wrote Newsom, who so far has resisted calls to relax the requirements.

The letter was signed by the mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, along with the mayors of Anaheim, Santa Ana, San Jose, San Diego, Bakersfield, Riverside and Fresno.

The affected parks include Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles County, and Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm in Orange County.

Under state guidelines unveiled last month, it could take weeks or even months to reach a rate of coronavirus infections that would allow them to reopen at 25% capacity.

Large theme parks would only be allowed to open in the yellow, or lowest risk tier. Los Angeles County is now in the purple, or highest risk tier, and Orange County is in the red, or substantial tier.

Smaller theme parks, with a capacity of 15,000 visitors or fewer, are allowed to reopen in the orange, or next-to-lowest risk tier. California's theme park operators want Newsom to consider allowing larger theme parks such as Disneyland to reopen in the orange tier instead of the yellow tier.

Disney has laid off 28,000 theme park employees as the result of the coronavirus pandemic, including more than 11,000 at Disney World in Florida, which reopened in July. Disneyland and other big California theme parks have been closed since March.

Disneyland, Universal Studios to stay shuttered under new guidelines
Disneyland, Universal Studios to stay shuttered under new guidelines

"As you may have recently seen, labor unions and employee groups representing many of the workers at these theme parks have joined in calls for a timely, safe reopening," the mayors wrote. "This call is a result of their direct knowledge of the health and safety protocols, and their need to get back to work."

In the orange, or moderate tier, there must be fewer than four new daily cases per 100,000 people and a less than 5% rate of positive tests over seven days. In the yellow, or minimal tier, there must be fewer than one daily new case per 100,000 people and a less than 2% rate of positive tests over seven days.

The mayors noted that theme parks across the country and the globe have reopened with effective precautions. Disney World and Universal Orlando reopened over the summer with no apparent coronavirus outbreaks connected to either of the parks.

Disney has reopened properties around the world, although Disneyland Paris closed last week as France went into a new lockdown due to a COVID-19 cases surge there.

The mayors requested a meeting with Newsom so they could better understand the science and health data that support the current guidelines.

"To the extent that your health care officials have seen different data, we would appreciate understanding it, because we want to be supportive of your efforts," they wrote.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Disneyland reopening: California mayors push Newsom on theme parks