For the first time in at least a week, California Governor Gavin Newsom addressed his ongoing disagreement with theme park operators over state orders that are keeping them closed.
“Self-evidently,” said Newsom verbosely, “we should be concerned about opening up large theme park which, by definition, people mix from all possible walks of life and putting ourselves and others at risk of seeing transmission rates rise.”
But there was one word the governor refused to say: “Disneyland.”
When asked about the furor over the continued closure of the Anaheim park, Newsom continued obliquely.
“You bring up one theme park. California has dozens and dozens of theme parks,” he said. “You bring up one particular operator of a theme park that does things very very differently than other operators.
You have theme parks that are really cities, that operate hotels and restaurant facilities, not just organize around carousels and other amenities. You see others that are out on beaches and boardwalks that a very very different.”
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About a week ago, California’s director of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly said that smaller theme parks can resume operations in the state’s Orange Tier. Capacity will be limited to 25% or 500 visitors, whichever is fewer. Only outdoor attractions may reopen and only to guests who are residents of the same county.
All theme parks — which includes Disneyland in Anaheim and Universal Studios Hollywood — may resume operations in Tier 4, Yellow, which is much further down the road. At that point, the guest limit is 25% across the board and indoor dining establishments can only operate at 25% capacity.
Orange County, where Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm are, is currently solidly in the Orange Tier. Los Angeles, home to Universal Studios, is in the most restrictive tier, Purple.
The announcement drew a swift, negative reaction from executives at Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, Legoland and others. Many operators said they would not be able to open anytime soon under the governor’s guidelines.
Newsom had previously revealed that Disney Chairman Bob Iger quit the governor’s council of economic advisors due to a disagreement between the two over theme parks. In the weeks since, Disney and other operators have become more and more outspoken in their displeasure.
“We have proven that we can responsibly reopen, with science-based health and safety protocols strictly enforced at our theme park properties around the world,” said Disneyland Resort president Ken Potrock. “Nevertheless, the State of California continues to ignore this fact, instead mandating arbitrary guidelines that it knows are unworkable and that hold us to a standard vastly different from other reopened businesses and state-operated facilities.”
“We should be in Tier Three, along with other industries that have proven they can reopen responsibly,” said Karen Irwin, President & COO, Universal Studios Hollywood. “Our employees are ready to go back to work and the fact that they won’t be able to do so until well into next year is shameful.”
On Tuesday, Newsom vowed not to be pressured. “We, as a state, are going to be driven by data and science and we are going to be driven by public health first,” he said.
“When you see double digit increases in the vast number of states,” Newsom said, “when you see hospitalization rates increase all across this country, when you see the weather start to turn, wand more and more people coming back inside and mixing…”
“Respectfully,” continued Newsom, again referring to but not naming Disneyland, “deep respect, because I understand as someone with 4 young kids the reverential identity they have with one particular brand that you are identifying, and their desire to be entertained.
“The bottom line is we are seeing an increase in the transmission traded of COVID-19 [in] vast majority of states in this nation,” observed Newsom. “That should be alarming to all Americans. We are seeing an increase in case rates all over the world.
Disneyland officials on Friday announced they will reopen stores and restaurants in the Disney California Adventure park starting in November, despite the continued closure of theme parks.
Park executives from Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, Legoland and the company that operates Knott’s Berry Farm came together on Wednesday to decry what they see as an overly-burdensome edict handed down by the State of California and Governor Gavin Newsom. Officials say the state guidelines for reopening make it nearly impossible for them to reopen. Some hinted at legal action.
Also on Friday, Newsom participated in an hourlong news conference and did not once mention the state’s recent coronavirus spike or the theme park issue.
The reopening of businesses along Buena Vista Street, the main drag at the opening of California Adventure, is a sort of expansion of Downtown Disney businesses, which reopened in July.
“It could show how they could reopen the parks,” said Mike Lyster, a spokesman for the city of Anaheim. “We welcome this plan to expand.”
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