California's governor has been meeting with leaders from Disney, Universal and other companies that operate theme parks in the state, to talk about reopening this important part of the state's ailing tourism industry.
The state's theme parks have been closed since mid-March, as Covid-19 has infected more than 700,000 people in California, claiming nearly 13,000 lives. Amusements such as spending the day at Disneyland might seem incongruent with this pandemic, but there's a simple reason why California should roll back its order keeping the parks closed.
They can operate safely.
Just look to Florida, where Universal Orlando has been opened since early June and the Walt Disney World theme parks have been welcoming guests since the middle of last month. The state of Florida has yet to trace a single outbreak of Covid-19 cases to exposures within those parks. The consumer safety procedures that Disney, Universal, and other theme parks have implemented might be the best in the entire U.S. economy. Everyone wears masks. No one with a fever is allowed to enter the premises. Clear plastic barriers and safe physical distancing keep parties apart. Frequent, enforced sanitation helps keep everyone safe.
If I have to go outside my home for any reason right now, I would want to do so under the same protections that the Florida theme parks have been enforcing for their visitors and employees. They are working and they would be the same protections that Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld would offer their visitors in California, as well.
So why not reopen the parks and help get thousands of cast members, team members, ambassadors, and model citizens off of California's strained unemployment rolls? Unlike in Florida, California has been paying unemployed workers in the state, but that relief has all but broken the state's budget. Saving money is no excuse for putting lives at risk, but reopening the parks will not do the second. For the state budget, though, a return absolutely will help with the first.
People cannot stay trapped in their homes forever. We need to get out. And better that we get out to destinations that have proven that they adopt and enforce appropriate safety procedures, such as these major theme parks. Leave the bars and movie theaters and sports stadia and indoor restaurants closed. But don't lump in theme parks with those businesses.
Especially since so much of what theme park offer happens
inside outside. (*That's what I get for writing two posts at once!) 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. Knott's Berry Farm has been safely welcoming guests to its outdoor food festivals this month. SeaWorld San Diego returned this weekend with outdoor dining and animal exhibits.
There's no substantial risk in adding outdoor rides to that mix, especially with the physical distancing and sanitation procedures already established in Florida. Allowing that would permit theme parks such as SeaWorld San Diego, Legoland California, Knott's Berry Farm, and Six Flags Magic Mountain to reopen with nearly all of their line-ups. So what is the public health rationale for continuing to keep them closed?
If the state wants to continue to restrict indoor activities — as it should — parks' experience in Florida and elsewhere provides plenty of guidance on how to do that. Keep seats empty for indoor shows and rides and don't allow people to remove their masks. (No munching popcorn or slurping drinks in these theaters.) Go ahead and keep indoor dining closed, if you must. But don't keep everything else in theme parks that can operate safely shut, too.
This pandemic has not ended. Not even close. Infection and death rates continue to be appalling. More must be done to contain and eradicate this virus. But closing Disneyland and other theme parks in the state is not advancing that cause. Experience elsewhere has shown that they can operate safely, so the state of California ought to allow them to do so.
Now keep reading while I take the opposite view and argue Here's Why Disneyland Should Not Reopen Yet.Tweet
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