'Months' Before Theme Parks Can Reopen in California

April 28, 2020, 3:06 PM · California Governor Gavin Newsom today put forth a four-phase plan for reopening businesses in the state of California, one that could see the reopening of some non-essential retail locations in "weeks, not months." However, higher-risk locations such as movie theaters would be included in later phases that reopen in "month, not weeks," Newsom said.

Theme parks were not explicitly listed in any of the four phases, which start with the status quo as phase one, when only essential businesses are allowed to open and then only under severe restrictions. The second phase would allow businesses with relatively low risk for transmission to reopen under social distancing restrictions. Examples would include manufacturing and construction, child care and schools, which could resume instruction earlier than planned, such as in July or August. However, social distancing restrictions would need to be in place for schools, which would require substantial planning and changing of past procedures.

Phase three would include entertainment venues such as movie theaters, plus religious services and sports events without spectators. Phase four would be the lifting of the stay-at-home order, allowing large crowds such as at sporting events and concerts, and for conventions to resume.

Theme parks in California, such as Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood, potentially could be included in phase three should they adopt substantial operational changes to support social distancing. Without those changes, theme parks would then likely fall into phase four, which Newsom said might not be reached "for some time."

Replies (13)

April 28, 2020 at 4:08 PM

Per realclearpoitics.com, which accurately keeps these numbers listed on a clear speadsheet for all of the states. From each state dept of health. Including the amount of people tested per state. So. You can judge it the number of cases and deaths adjusted for population is due to reality or lack of testing. Although, by now practically every states has tested at least 1 percent of their pop. California is the 2nd lowest among big states only behind texas. Calif is actually significantly under florida, which is also not that hard hit compared to some states. While the gov of calif, made a good call closing early, it's time to reopen the theme parks on a limited, trial basis. Such as follows. Some fairly large calif counties are hit considerably less hard the calif as a whole. In particular fresno (still only seven deaths) the county has about one million people. I know from personal experience, there is a significant amount of annual passholders from this area. So. I would propose this to the GOV. Allow Disneyland and Calif Adventure to reopen on a very limited test basis, only on the make an appointment ahead system. Unless someone shows proof of a covid antibody test showing they already had and recovered from the infection, concentrate these appointments from the counties that are hit less hard from the virus. And. Wear the masks (as much as reasonably possible given heat). During this test period allow on those over 15yrs who are more likely to follow social distancing instructions. I await everyone's comments to this proposal

April 28, 2020 at 4:17 PM

For sports fans in the audience (which also significantly effects disney and comcast's bottom line and potential for completing already announced theme park projects), Arizona is also among the lower tier of states with cases per population. Along with florida and calif. So. even if the calif gov is stubborn, MLB in particular could resume in those states. (spring training facilities for every team exists where they could train and easily play in those 2 states). I even see it as an acceptable risk to allow some fans to attend in those stadiums under reduced capacity limits to social distance. I also note that germany is operating under a 5 meter social distance guideline. Which I believe is about 4 feet, instead of the 6 we are advised to keep.

April 28, 2020 at 4:29 PM

With so much of Disney's bottom line being affected, once the parks finally do open, it is going to be a while before we see anything new come to fruition. They will no doubt finish a basic Avengers Campus in California Adventure, but the Avenger's Ride expansion is going to be pushed back years. Hollywood Studios in Florida can wipe its brow in relief knowing that it finished most of its updates, but I imagine Epcot will be doing a lot of "clean up, repave, and leave it empty" for the new Future World plans. The Ratatouille and Guardians of the Galaxy rides will get completed, but I doubt they will even refurbish Spaceship Earth as planned. The great big beautiful tomorrow we have been hearing about and getting excited for, might more realistically become a great big beautiful 2030s. This situation and the economic recovery required to get things back on track is going to push a lot of things WAY down the line.

April 28, 2020 at 4:34 PM

Um, davedisney, are you sure about a 5 meter separation? That's 16.4 feet.
You might have a typo.

April 28, 2020 at 4:54 PM

You are right Tim. I did typo, thank you. Germany is at 1.5 meters separation. Which I just translated on an app at 4.92126 feet. A little less than 5 feet, as opposed to the US 6 feet

April 28, 2020 at 5:25 PM

Today's death # for states important to resuming theme parks and sports. California only 29 in the entire state. The largest state in the country, by a significant amount. Indiana's # was more than 2x that for comparison. Texas even lower 18. Arizona, also 18. Last but not least Florida did have a significant jump today to 83. But Florida's total numbers are still low, so what the numbers are for the next 7 days in Florida will be very telling for the florida parks. All numbers are published today, but are actually yesterday's death numbers. Of course. Being a complex disease that kills in conjunction with pre-existing conditions and not knowing how many covid deaths there were before march. There is both under counting AND over counting of covid deaths. Those probably even out.

April 28, 2020 at 7:54 PM

Honestly, Just keep em closed, California doesn’t need these non essential parks anyway.

April 28, 2020 at 10:38 PM

Posts like these are starting to feel like clickbait, but I guess it gets the views. Anyway...

If months means June or July, then yes...I don't think any theme park in So Cal will be opening before then. However, I find it highly unlikely they will be closed longer than that. If parks open in other parts of the country and operate for several weeks without a notable spike, there's going to be tons of pressure from park operators and local communities to get them back open ASAP. Remember, it's not just about the park...there's a whole web of businesses tied to them, and not only do they all employ residents of the region, but they also make up a pretty decent chunk of the income of most localities. With most other portions of the country planning to reopen similar businesses in June or early July, I think it's very unlikely California will trail far behind.

April 29, 2020 at 1:02 AM

One thing to consider is Newsom is going to be feeling some major pressure to loosen up earlier. Not just business, you better believe Hollywood is not going to be happy with the idea of waiting months to resume filming and open movie theaters. A key reason Texas is opening sooner is their governor pressured (due to oil issues) and such. Even Illinois is feeling it with lawsuits to try and end the shelter orders sooner. Newsom has been good handling this so far but the pressure is on to let it get up much sooner than his careful plan, no matter the saving of lives.

April 29, 2020 at 9:29 AM

The two months after parks open in Florida and other areas will be very telling in terms of how effective the social distancing measures they enact will be working, and whether there is a second spike of cases. If a second spike materializes and is traceable to parks, Newsom will come out looking like a genius. But if after two months of operation the numbers of cases aren't changing appreciably, then yep, the pressure will really be on him.

Probably advantageous to be extra cautious for the time being.

April 29, 2020 at 11:06 AM

John Hensler. I have heard of very little cases being suggested as possible causes from theme parks from the first wave in feb/march. Even by the sensationalist media. The media blew up and exagerated a small measles outbreak that they tied to disneyland years ago. No lawsuits happened that I recall. Some must have happened. But. Obviously not that many or the media would be writing new stories about the heartbreak and suffering when the man/woman just wanted to have fun for a few days.

April 29, 2020 at 12:24 PM

It is tricky to figure out some cases that could have spread it more. Mardi Gras was one possible hotspot and there's talk that had the Detroit Auto Show not been canceled, that would have blown up the Great Lakes in cases. However, can't be denied that one of the premier vacation spots on the planet can't be an incubator for more spread if not handled right.

May 1, 2020 at 9:44 AM

Any part of the parks reopening will be the *intense* media scrutiny that will accompany it. And I bet it will be many times over what any previous coverage was like.

Disney and Universal's theme parks are symbols of the American lifestyle... good and bad. I would imagine that extra-careful media relations is going to have to be a big part of any reopening plan. Wouldn't be surprised at all if the morning news shows are live from the parks when they first open the gates.

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Park tickets

Weekly newsletter

New attraction reviews

News archive