UPDATED on Wednesday: Two days after the trade association that represents Disneyland, Universal Studios and Knott’s Berry Farm, among others, called for California Governor Gavin Newsom to release guidelines that would allow them to reopen their parks, the governor gave an update on the state’s progress.
In his Wednesday press conference Newsom said, “We will be making announcements soon as it relates to theme parks and amusement parks. Very very shortly.”
Newsom said he was not ready to make such an announcement at that very moment, but reiterated that the plans were very close to being released.
Shortly thereafter, the mayors of Anaheim — where Disneyland is located — and Buena Park — where Knott’s Berry Farm is located — and Garden Grove, which is adjacent to both parks, reportedly called on the governor to take action.
“The time to issue reopening guidelines for theme parks is now,” Anaheim mayor Harry Sidhu said during a press conference according to the L.A. Daily News. “We are confident in their ability to reopen safely and responsibly in Anaheim and the time is right.”
“It is absolutely imperative for the health of our community that Gov. Newsom issue guidelines so that the Disneyland resort can reopen,” said Garden Grove Mayor Steve Jones during the press conference.
Buena Park Mayor Fred Smith called the six-month closure of Knott’s “devastating” for the theme park and a “disaster” for the city.
“Tourism is a big part of Buena Park’s economy,” said Smith during a press conference across from Disneyland. “Knott’s Berry Farm is the largest employer in our city. It is the largest source of tax revenue, drawing visitors from all the way around the world.”
PREVIOUSLY on Monday: The California Attractions and Parks Association released a statement on Monday urging California Governor Gavin Newsom to issue guidelines that would allow the reopening of amusement parks in the state. The trade organization represents Disneyland Resort, Universal Studios, Six Flags Magic Mountain, SeaWorld San Diego, Knott’s Berry Farm and Legoland California Resort.
Executive director Erin Guerrero wrote in her statement, “California’s amusement parks urge the Governor to issue amusement park guidelines expeditiously so these vital community attractions can reopen their doors in a responsible manner and get residents back to work.”
Disneyland and other area parks closed in March as the coronavirus hit California hard. At least twice since then, Newsom has said that the state was working with parks to create guidelines for reopening. The last time he mentioned it, the governor said the sides were close.
The statement from the CAPA on Monday indicates that the parks are ready saying, “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.”
What’s more, the CAPA hints that the parks are more ready than some sectors that are already open. “These practices will promote health and safety in ways that many activities Californians are currently engaging in won’t.”
For instance, in Orange County where a number of these parks are situated restaurants, movie theaters and places of worship can resume indoor operations at either 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever number is fewer. Indoor shopping malls, swap meets and retail stores can be open at 50% capacity.
Of course, such a move from Newsom would probably require he amend his recently-released four tier color system, which has already caused a bit of confusion.
While there is no guidance for theme parks and other such attractions at this point, the state’s general guidance on reopening says an activity or business’s tier depends on whether it can:
-Allow physical distance between individuals from different households
-Limit the number of people per square foot
-Limit time that an individual is at the business or activity
-Limit time of exposure
-Limit mixing of people from different households
-Limit amount of physical interactions of visitors/patrons
-Increase airflow (such as operating outdoors or opening windows and doors)
-Limit activities that are known to increase virus spread (like singing, shouting and heavy breathing)
Several of those indicators would seem difficult for parks, including the physical distance, time of exposure (a 30 minute pass to Disneyland?) and avoiding shouting or heavy breathing on rides that are meant to induce both.
Chairman of Disney Parks Experiences and Products Josh D’Amaro said late last month that the company has made progress on anti-COVID measures using technology throughout the park.
D’Amaro also said, “As soon as a date and those guidelines are set, I can tell you, we’re ready.”
Read the full CAPA statement below.
Because it is an industry that values safety above all else, 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.