Disneyland Official Describes California Theme Park Reopening Guidelines as 'Unworkable'
The reopening of Disneyland is looking unlikely to happen anytime soon.
On Tuesday, the state government of California released new and lengthy guidance on how theme parks in the state will be able to safely reopen. The document notes that attractions such as Disneyland will be allowed to welcome visitors again only after the county it's located in reaches a lower level of COVID-19 cases — a feat that could take some time to accomplish.
According to the document, smaller theme parks can resume operations once their county hits California's phase three of COVID recovery, while larger theme parks, such as Disneyland, will not be allowed to reopen until its county hits phase four. Orange County, where Disneyland is located, is currently in California's phase two, per NBC-affiliate KHQ.
The announcement drew criticism from the President of Disneyland Resort, Ken Potrock, who said in a statement that the new guidelines are "unworkable."
"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," Potrock said. "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."
Disney originally planned to reopen its Disneyland Resort and Disney California Adventure Park as early as July 17, but the company announced at the time that the approval they had expected imminently from state and local government officials would not be granted in time..
In his statement, Potrock added that he, along with Disney's labor unions, want to "get people back to work" but said the new state guidelines will keep them unable to reopen for the foreseeable future, "forcing thousands more people out of work, leading to the inevitable closure of small family-owned businesses, and irreparably devastating the Anaheim/Southern California community."
In September, Disney announced it would be laying off 28,000 employees — of which 67 percent are part-time. Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Josh D'Amaro said the extended closure was a factor in the ″very difficult decision″ to reduce the parks' ″workforce″ in a statement.
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Once Orange County does hit phase four, parks will be limited to 25 percent capacity and guests will be required to wear face masks throughout their visit, except while eating or drinking. Similarly, reservations will be required for all parks, with temperature checks taken at the gate upon entry.
The California Attractions and Parks Association is planning a virtual news conference Wednesday morning to discuss the state's guidelines, according to ABC7.
In a statement released on Tuesday that was obtained by the outlet, the organization shared: "To say today's announcement on theme parks is disappointing would be a grave understatement. The Governor has not used science or data to inform his decision. Theme parks have opened and operated safely around the world for months."
They added: "Data and science prove that theme parks can operate responsibly anywhere - there is no rational reason to believe they can't do so in California. No one cares more about park employee and guest safety than the parks themselves."
To date, California has seen 887,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 17,000 people have died, according to New York Times data. In the past week, Orange County has reported an average of 186.1 new cases and 10.1 deaths per day, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Both U.S. Disney parks closed in March. Walt Disney World in Orlando began its phased opening on July 11 despite a surge in cases in the state at the time and a petition calling for the date to be pushed back created by park employee Katie Belisle that had gathered more than 19,000 signatures as of July 10.
Since reopening, Disney World has enacted numerous new rules and protocols, including requiring face masks, temperature checks upon entry, socially distanced rides and lines and contactless payment at stores and restaurants.
Across the globe, Disney's parks in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Paris have also reopened.
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