Anaheim Struggles as Disneyland Waits to Reopen

October 12, 2020 Updated: October 12, 2020

Disneyland will likely be waiting longer to reopen its famous Anaheim theme park after California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he feels “there’s no hurry putting out guidelines” to reopen.

In an Oct. 7 press conference, Newsom said there have been “disagreements in terms of opening a major theme park,” adding, “We’re going to let science and data make that determination.”

Newsom’s latest announcement came three weeks after he said on Sept. 16 that the state planned to make announcements “soon” relating to reopening guidelines for theme parks.

“I understand the dialectic, the friction, the frustration that many business leaders have—that they want to move forward, sectorally, to reopen—but we are going to be led by a health-first framework, and we’re going to be stubborn about it,” Newsom said.

The announcement came to the dismay of many park and city officials, who told The Epoch Times that the theme park is ready and willing to reopen safely as soon as allowed.

“We absolutely reject the suggestion that reopening the Disneyland Resort is incompatible with a ‘health-first’ approach. The fact is that since March, we have taken a robust science-based approach to responsibly reopening our parks and resorts across the globe,” Dr. Pamela Hymel, the chief medical officer for Disney Parks, told The Epoch Times in an email.

“Our health and safety protocols were developed in consultation with epidemiologists and data scientists, and after considering guidance from the Centers for Disease Control [CDC] and experts in local government and health agencies,” Hymel said.

“All of our other theme parks both in the United States and around the world have been allowed to open on the strength of our proven ability to operate with responsible health and safety protocols.”

Mike Lyster, chief communications officer for the city of Anaheim, told The Epoch Times that the longer Disneyland is forced to stay closed, the more difficult the city’s economic recovery will be.

He said the impact of the lingering shutdown “has been very significant” on Anaheim.

“We face a budget deficit currently between $75 million and $100 million, which is about a third of our budget. We have 12 percent unemployment in our city that matches what we saw during the Great Recession,” Lyster said.

“We have serious concerns going forward about the extended economic impacts of all this. We are currently in a recession, and that is driven by the pandemic, but what we fear is rather than a short and shallow [recession], we fear a longer extended recession, the longer we go without an economic recovery roadmap.”

Lyster said he personally witnessed the resort’s ability to effectively lower the chance of spreading COVID-19 due to new safety protocols put into place at the park.

“Mayor Harry Sidhu and I actually toured the Disneyland Park and Downtown Disney on [Oct. 7]. We’ve of course seen what they have done at Downtown Disney, which is the shopping and restaurant area next to the parks. … It is, if not the best, certainly among the best of what we’ve seen in our city.”

Sidhu said in an Oct. 2 tweet, “There is too much at stake. We need attainable guidelines that allow our theme parks and convention center to safely reopen soon to get people back to work and to restore our economy.”

Erin Guerrero, executive director for the California Attractions and Parks Association, also expressed frustration in a statement sent to The Epoch Times.

“We find it disconcerting that Governor Newsom has no planned timeline for issuing guidance for theme parks, and of great concern is that he does not anticipate theme parks opening soon,” Guerrero said.

“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.”

In response to the revenue losses caused by the ongoing delay, Disney announced on Sept. 29 that the company would be laying off 28,000 employees from its theme park division—over 12 percent of the company’s workforce—after being closed down for seven months.

Local unions in Orange County have announced the layoffs to their members. Workers United 50 posted on Facebook that 2,858 out of its 7,796 cast members (employees) were scheduled to be released as part of the layoffs, Unite Here Local 11 stated that approximately 950 of its members would be laid off, and Teamsters Local 495 issued a notice confirming that over 1,400 of its members had been let go.

So far, the announced layoffs include full-time and part-time food service workers, security guards, and hotel workers.

Disney Executive Chairman Bob Iger also resigned from Newsom’s economic recovery task force on Oct. 1 in protest of the governor’s position.

“Responsibly reopening amusement parks and fighting this pandemic do not need to be mutually exclusive—tens of thousands of amusement park workers and their families, businesses surrounding amusement parks, and desperate local governments are counting on the state to do both,” Guerrero said.

“Let’s get this signature California industry back to work.”

Reopening guidelines for theme parks were expected to be released Oct. 2 by the state, but were postponed after an early draft was viewed by amusement park leaders, who urged further changes.

Follow Drew on Twitter: @DrewVanVoorhis