Gov. Gavin Newsom said long-awaited COVID-19 health and safety guidelines for the state’s theme parks will be announced Tuesday, Oct. 20, but Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood and other larger parks may be unhappy with the new reopening plans.
Newsom said during a news conference on Monday, Oct. 19 that amusement parks reopening guidelines will be released by California Health and Human Services secretary Mark Ghaly on Tuesday.
“Tomorrow, let’s look forward to Dr. Ghaly’s presentation and update on tiered status and some new guidelines that will be put out on issues related to theme parks,” Newsom said during the news conference.
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Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, Universal Studios, Knott’s Berry Farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain, SeaWorld San Diego, Legoland California and other California theme parks closed in mid-March amid the COVID-19 pandemic and remain shuttered while they await guidelines for safely reopening from the state.
Newsom said last week that he anticipated his administration will issue separate reopening guidelines for smaller and larger theme parks in the state.
“I am very mindful, for example — if you have a park, in a city, with a Ferris wheel — that that’s not a ‘theme park’ in the sense so many of us consider,” Newsom said last week. “So one has to distinguish between the two.”
SEE ALSO: Disney and Universal urge Newsom to ‘stop delaying’ and let California theme parks ‘open now’
Disney, Universal and other large theme parks in California are not expected to be included in the guidelines for smaller amusement parks.
“Tomorrow, Dr. Ghaly will update you on some of those industries and guidelines, including sports and some of these theme parks,” Newsom said Monday. “We’re going to break up the theme parks. It’s not just one or two brands. It’s many different parts that are part of the theme park industry. But Dr. Ghaly will be updating you tomorrow on those guidelines.”
California has a number of smaller amusement parks, including Pacific Park (Santa Monica), Belmont Park (San Diego), Adventure City (Anaheim), Castle Park (Riverside), Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Gilroy Gardens, Funderland (Sacramento), Happy Hollow (San Jose), Pixieland (Concord) and Fiesta Village (Colton).
Reopening plans for larger theme parks could be similar to initial draft guidelines from the state reportedly calling for reopening individual California theme parks at 25% capacity once their county reaches the least-restrictive “minimal” risk level and limiting attendance to residents who live within 120 miles of each park.
The California Attractions and Parks Association asked state officials in early October to modify some protocols before issuing reopening guidelines.
Over the last few weeks, a task force of state officials has visited Disney World, Universal Orlando, Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood and Pacific Park at the Santa Monica Pier to inspect COVID-19 safety protocols.
Newsom said he was concerned about the impact upcoming colder months and holiday gatherings will have on the battle against the pandemic.
“This is an area of obvious and real concern,” Newsom said during the news conference. “That’s why we’re being very sober, and forgive me, stubborn about some industries in the state that I know are eager to get guidelines.”
SEE ALSO: Disneyland resort faces $2 billion revenue loss during coronavirus closure, analyst warns
Newsom said decisions about reopening California theme parks will be driven by scientific data and a health-first approach.
“Again, I hope one recognizes our stubbornness on a health-first, data-driven, decision-making process is done with our eyes wide open on what’s happening now around the world, not just what’s happened across the United States,” Newsom said during the news conference. “Not yet here in the state of California, but that’s only because we are being vigilant and have to maintain that vigilance so we avoid any further increase in transmission.”
Disney parks chief medical officer Pamela Hymel took issue earlier this month with Newsom’s suggestion that Disneyland would not take a “health-first” approach to reopening.
“We absolutely reject the suggestion that reopening the Disneyland resort is incompatible with a ‘health-first’ approach,” Hymel said in a statement. “The fact is, that since March we have taken a robust science-based approach to responsibly reopening our parks and resorts across the globe.”
The impact of the nearly eight-month closure has been devastating on Disneyland cast members, the local community and small businesses, according to Disney officials. Disneyland is more than ready to reopen and get people back to work, Disney officials said.
Disneyland has reached return to work agreements with unions representing 90% of unionized employees that will allow Disney’s Anaheim theme parks to bring back their workers with a host of new COVID-19 health and safety measures in place.