California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday the only path to sustainable economic recovery from the battering ram of COVID-19 is to avoid early mistakes and open businesses more slowly despite the pain.
“It’s very raw. I am well aware of the mandates we put out as a state, the mandates that are put out by local health officers… The need and desire for people to get back to work and open their doors,” he said during a virtual Q&A at Milken Institute’s annual Global Conference. “At the same time, you’ve got to balance public health if you are committed to sustainable economic growth and recovery. Not situational economic growth and recovery. What I learned is the errant way that we reopened after the first few months that we had held the line.”
He didn’t elaborate on specific industries like theme parks, which have been vocally protesting the lack of reopening guidelines as they continue to shed workers. Disneyland and Universal Resorts Hollywood remain dark, although the parks are open in Orlando, Florida.
“We never had a big surge like they had on the East Coast,” he said, and the state is now seeing “not a second wave but a continuation of the first that we were able to temper. So now as we have now tamed this growth and we are now reopening we are doing it much more methodically and we are doing it much more stubbornly but in a way that I believe will ultimately aid our economic recovery by not having the fits and starts that an opening and closing that I think is very likely to persist and be advanced as people enter back indoors and we start to see some transmission rates go back up. “We are going to keep a health first focus in order to advance our economic paradigm.”
Few industries in entertainment — which rep a big chunk of the state’s economy — have been harder hit than theme parks. Owners have been in back-and-forth with the governor over when the industry will get guidelines to reopen safely – something parks have done in other states and around the world. Newsom recently said he was “in no hurry” to reopen parks then backtracked but hints and promises have not yet resulted in anything declarative, causing Walt Disney executive chairman Bob Iger to resign from a state recovery task force.
The conglomerate late last month announced plans to lay off 28,000 at its domestic parks, Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. and Walt Disney World in Orlando.
That includes 8,857 union employees at Disney World, which has been open since July but at reduced capacity.
Universal Hollywood has laid off more than 2,200 workers since July according to state filings.
California Attractions and Parks Association executive director, Erin Guerrero has stressed the industry’s months of developing comprehensive draft guidelines with input from international health and safety experts and said they are ready to reopen with best practice protocols. “Each day that parks are closed further decimates the amusement park industry. The Governor’s “no big rush” approach is ruining businesses and livelihoods for thousands who could responsibly be back at work,” she said.
Dr. Pamela Hymel, Chief Medical Officer, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products also weighed in, saying, “We absolutely reject the suggestion that reopening the Disneyland Resort is incompatible with a “health-first” approach.”
Parks in California are fighting through the same limbo as movie theaters on the opposite coast in New York, where Governor Andrew Cuomo is keeping them closed across the state even as various other businesses are allowed to reopen. NY has not provided a guideline of how or when they can reopen.
California’s stance on theaters has been more tolerant – it’s on a county-by-county basis depending on infection levels, so many are open. However, the key Los Angeles market remains closed. In San Francisco, theaters declined to open even after getting the green light. They said its economically feasible since the mayor won’t let them sell concessions.