And Here's Why Disneyland Should Not Reopen Yet

August 31, 2020, 6:55 PM · In a companion post, I just argued Why Disneyland Should Be Allowed to Reopen Now. This time, hear me out on why now is not the time for theme parks such as Disneyland to return.

My main argument in the other post was that theme parks can reopen safely. That's based primarily on the track record from the state of Florida, where no outbreaks have been traced to the reopening of Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and other major theme parks.

Trouble is, Florida's recording-keeping when it comes to Covid-19 has been attacked as garbage. And contact tracing within the state is a mess. If a theme park visitor infected tourists from outside the state, would Florida even know about it?

Even if the parks themselves have not become vectors for spreading the virus, people ought to be concerned about the precedent that reopening the parks might set. The evidence is growing overwhelming that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is spread through the air, and that it infects people far more often in indoor environments than outside. Reopening bars and indoor dining has been traced to multiple outbreaks across the country. Case rates throughout the counties that house California's theme parks remain far too high to consider allowing indoor restaurants, bars, and theaters to return. The last thing we need is to reopen theme parks in any way that might encourage owners of those other indoor facilities to sue for approval to reopen their businesses as well.

It's just easier to leave the parks closed.

Okay, maybe they can return for limited outdoor operations, such as Knott's Berry Farm and SeaWorld San Diego have done. Limited experiences such as those only encourage people to visit for a limited amount of time. Right now, the safest thing for all Californians is for people to remain home as much as possible. We should not be opening attractions that entice people to get out of their homes for the entire day, from dawn to long past sundown — as high-priced days at theme parks tend to do, as people want to get full value for their money.

Walt Disney World might have been able to limit attendance successfully due to the low number of visitors coming to Central Florida right now. But Disneyland attracts a vastly different crowd that its Florida sibling does. When it returns, Disneyland will be slammed with local annual passholders wanting to get back into the parks. Disneyland is physically tiny compared with the Florida parks. There's far less space here for safe physical distancing.

And what about guests driving into the practically indoor Mickey and Friends and Pixar Pals parking garages? Will Disney be policing visitors for mask use and temperature checks as they exit their cars? If not, that will leave plenty of opportunities for infected visitors to spread the virus to others before they get to Disney's security checks.

I understand the frustration that many theme park fans on the west coast are feeling, not being able to return to their favorite places. And I absolutely understand the frustration and pain felt by many employed by the parks or by contractors who supply the parks. Their livelihoods are at stake here.

But allow me to suggest that their frustration should not be aimed at the state of California for keeping theme parks closed. Instead, they should be angry with local, state, national, and international leaders who allowed this pandemic to get this bad. They should be mad at politicians and media voices who promoted attacks on mask usage, further enabling Covid's spread. They should be upset with elected officials throughout the United States who failed to provide working people in this country the financial support they needed to stay home while the virus was tested, tracked and contained.

Don't allow the leaders who failed us to reframe this challenge as a question of when businesses should reopen. The question — as always — needs to be, "what are we going to do next to get this virus that has killed more than 180,000 Americans under control?"

Reopening Disneyland is not the answer to that question.

Replies (6)

August 31, 2020 at 10:19 PM

What if we keep nothing open for another few months and then we defeat the virus quicker instead of trying to reopen little things and postponing the end date to this nightmare? That sounds better to me, both from the perspective of someone who wants to be safe and someone who wants life (and theme parks) to get back to normal.

August 31, 2020 at 10:35 PM

The problem is the spread of CV is mainly people socializing... not essential shopping, not going into indoor businesses with masks on, but socializing without masks, mainly in indoor spaces. Keeping things closed has not kept my neighborhood free of parties and indoor gatherings... including a public school psychologist who hosted a party on 4th of July. That said, my home has stayed CV free because we wear masks properly (over nose and mouth) when out and about and do not have non-household members in our home. The whole argument of closing things down is moot when the reality is I believe most cases from June on past at meat plants and garment factories in CA were people not wearing masks properly and throwing caution-to-the-wind. Any how, this virus is not going away with another 2 months of shutdowns, and I believe those who plan to act safely will stay safe of CV as long as their household members do the same. Disney World and Universal Orlando have a good track record of making sure their guests socially distance, wear masks, etc. I think past just me wanting to go back to the parks, the reality is our economy sure could use the boost and emotionally and psychologically lots of us could use a dose even if we have to be extra cautious of theme park magic.

September 1, 2020 at 12:12 AM

Thanks for this, Robert, good discussion on both sides and hopefully some rational discussion rather than some insults about.

September 1, 2020 at 1:48 AM

These arguments work if you're at a point where a complete closure of all but the most essential businesses is warranted. However, when you're not even close to that point, they tend to collapse fairly quickly. When you've got a reopening plan that allows indoor dining and theaters in the second phase (out of five) and bars in the third, justification for keeping less risky theme parks shuttered just isn't there. Besides, a partial reopening like what Knott's is doing right now actually allows the most dangerous aspects to reopen (those that put unmasked guests in close proximity to each other for extended periods of time), while prohibiting rides and attractions that would not only be able to operate with no additional risk, but would actually make the rest of the park safer because fewer guests would be milling about on pathways. There is additional risk to any reopening, but we cannot stay closed forever, and based on where we currently are and what the current plan going forward is, there is no reasonable justification theme parks should not be allowed to return at the red phase at latest.

September 1, 2020 at 1:28 PM

Very well said Robert, thank you. The reason the parks aren't open now is because we let down our guard on Memorial Day. As someone wrote, "America decided drinking was more important than their kids' education," and that's exactly right. My beautiful 7 year old daughter is depressed because she can't go to school, can't see her friends and no end is in sight. Yet grown men continue to insist it's essential that they ride a roller coaster right now so infection rates be damned!

And so now people are again pushing for faster reopenings, which will yield bigger numbers this fall (will we hit 100,000 a day?), which will only further delay the REAL opening. We'll be lucky to be back inside by summer 2021 at the rate we're going. Have Americans ever been stupider?????

September 1, 2020 at 4:03 PM

I commend the author for presenting what appears to be a balanced argument.
But after all of these months, to say THIS virus is deserving of the panic we are demonstrating is beyond logic. Since soft-reopenings, cases have risen exponentially, while deaths have dropped through the floor. Look it up, the CDC publishes weekly numbers!
If you are under 50 years old - even if you're "unhealthy" your chances of being severely affected by this virus are so low as to be statistically irrelevant.
We are destroying the lives of ALL of the young in the name of saving a few of the VERY OLD. (and we aren't even saving THEM)
Why is a free society so unable to compute the risk-reward equation? If you are afraid and feel at-risk, stay indoors and do what makes you comfortable. But why are we imposing society-wide, risk-aversion tactics on those that have no risk? I say open everything, they should never have been closed in first place.

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