Who Cares When Disneyland Reopens?

September 16, 2020, 6:59 PM · California Governor Gavin Newsom today said again that an announcement about the state allowing theme parks such as Disneyland to reopen is coming "soon."

"We will be making announcements soon as it relates to theme parks and amusement parks — making announcements soon as it relates to some industries as well as sectors and putting out additional guidelines in those spaces," Newsom said during his noon press conference. "Very, very shortly — I am not here today to make that presentation, but we are actively working in a number of sectors and we will be making public the fruits of those negotiations and those efforts very, very shortly."

Over the past week or two, leaders in the tourism industry — including theme parks — and their communities have been pushing stories and demands that Newsom move quickly to reopen the parks. Here's what I posted on my social media accounts this afternoon after Newsom's latest remarks.

Order in which we care about people's opinions on theme parks reopening:
  1. Infectious disease specialists studying Covid-19
  2. Front-line, in-park employees
  3. Nearby tourism industry workers
  4. Theme park fans who wear masks
  5. Theme park management
  6. Politicians
  7. Media that don't cover theme parks daily
  8. People who don't ever visit theme parks

And here's how I responded to a discussion on our forum:

"Carry on, Gov. Newsom. People are more important than money. When it is time to reopen parks, do. But don't let any business bark its way to the front of the line."

Obviously, a lot of people care about when Disneyland and other theme parks reopen in Southern California. Like many, I want fans to be able to enjoy themselves safely and industry workers to be able to make a living safely, as well. But many of people who say they care about Disney's return don't care because they are theme park fans or work in the themed entertainment industry. They "care" because Disneyland is a cultural symbol and they want to use it to enflame an unnecessary and increasingly deadly political culture war.

For our readers in the United States, as soon as Disneyland announces its return, your social media feeds, email inbox, newspaper, and TV screens will be inundated by crap offered up by people who do not cover theme parks on a regular basis and have not been following what has happened in this industry around the world over the past six months. Some of those messages will attack theme parks' return and some will praise it.

But all those hot takes on bad coverage will be amplified online by an army of bots commissioned by people who want you to feel anger towards "other" Americans. When the California parks announce their reopenings, I will cover their return. But I will try my best to steer clear of the Orwellian "Two Minutes Hate" stuff, including viral videos of mask battles.

Until then, mask up whenever you leave the house. Wash your hands. Get a flu shot before that season starts. And always be friendly and respectful of those around you... while staying at least six feet away from them. Be good to each other.

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Replies (17)

September 17, 2020 at 12:51 AM

Thank you, Robert.

September 17, 2020 at 8:39 AM

If it was truly the health and safety of citizens that were used to determine how our society recovers from this pandemic, that would be fine, but it's clear that many politicians are picking and choosing what to do based on their own personal beliefs and political motivations.

There are numerous reports from around the country of various governments (both state and local) that are using scientific data to make their decisions. However, they are selectively using and interpreting those scientific data to support their decisions and ignoring or dismissing other scientific data that belie those decisions. Some governments, including many in California, are establishing metrics to return business and life to "normal" that would be unattainable even if there weren't a raging pandemic occurring. In essence, these officials are using science to support whatever decisions and restrictions they feel like imposing, because even if the community flattened the curve to near zero, the metrics for reopening would still not be met or officials would cite predictive models forecasting a "second wave" as to why progressing towards normal activities is not approved.

Governments' lack of trust in their citizens and businesses seems to be at the heart of it. It confounds me that state and local governments think that theme parks (and other businesses) would knowingly place their guests/customers at risk and chance the fiercely negative PR that would result if their operations directly led to the spread of the virus. Governments can only do so much to protect their citizens, and at some point they have to take a step back and trust that people will make decisions to protect their existence and posterity. The constant assumption from governments that people are dumb or that policies must be set to protect the least common denominator needs to end.

September 17, 2020 at 8:54 AM

But...people are dumb Russell. They proved that plenty in regular times, and they've put that into overdrive the last few months. We need our government to protect us from them.

September 17, 2020 at 9:17 AM

Yes, there are some dumb people in this world, but that doesn't mean the government has to establish rules and policies geared specifically towards these idiots, which represent an insignificant, though widely visible minority of the population thanks to the explosion of social media and the increasing attention/credibility those sources are given. The fact that governments feel the need to punish smart and reasonable people because of a handful of idiots just breeds more stupidity and contempt for authority. Let people make sound decisions based on their specific situations instead of establishing blanket policies that have to be extra stringent to cover the rare, isolated incident created by a single moron, which will inevitably occur anyway regardless of what rules are put into place.

We need government to establish general parameters for society, but trust that citizens can make sensible decisions that are best for themselves and surrounding community.

September 17, 2020 at 11:49 AM

@RussellMeyer: Problem is these are not "one single moron," these are packs who wander stores and chant "no masks" or throw "maskless parties" and other idiocy. These are guys who storm a Michigan state house with rifles and throw masks into fires, etc. The entire reason we're in this mess is too many not taking it anywhere near serious enough so putting faith in the smarter folks hasn't been working so far.

September 17, 2020 at 12:54 PM

So the rest of us who are smart enough to know what we should and should not do have to be punished like toddlers because of that? And then question whether certain decision are based on actual science and risk-based analyses or are based on the whims of politicians overreacting to the angry mobs or the lobbyists at their doorstep?

I certainly don't think we should fling everything open, signaling to the country that everything is OK. However, the way things are going around the country, the hypocrisy of what people are or are not allowed to do right now is a joke. Yes, some of that has to do with a lack of national guidance and leadership from the Federal level, but much of it is due to new-found power recognized by state and local officials. People in California can go to the mall or gym with strict adherence to sanitizing policies and at a reasonable fraction of a facility's capacity (10-25% depending on industry). However, if you want to go to church/temple/synagogue, you cannot gather indoors with more than 11 other people, which for some buildings is less than 1% of their capacity (and even if outdoors, those gatherings are capped at 25). You can go to the zoos, aquariums, and museums with their numerous indoor exhibit spaces with reasonably limited capacities, yet you can't go to a place like SFMM at all, where virtually every attraction is outside. If more than 12 people can't gather inside a massive cathedral, why are stores and offices not capped at that same level? If no one can visit a 262 acre theme park (SFMM), why can anyone go to the San Diego Zoo? The hypocrisy and absurdity of it all could not be more clear. It has NOTHING to do with the anti-mask crowd nor science - it has to do with politician's lack of scientific understanding and twisting what they think they know to suit their needs and future re-election prospects. If going to Disneyland or gathering more than 12 people in a cathedral is unsafe, why is the entire state of California still not on lockdown?

Again, I'm not trying to minimize the devastation of the virus nor trying to oversimplify or belittle the decisions our elected officials have to make to keep their constituents safe, but the anecdotal evidence cited above by MikeW (one example from over 2 months ago) should not affect policy any more than a potential donation to a political campaign or vested interest an official has in a given industry.

September 17, 2020 at 3:10 PM

I have been a reader for years, but I spoke of this when your articles took on a political tone a few months ago. I teased you, asking if one your articles would be called "Get off my lawn !". I took a break from reading from your site for a month, hoping it was a phase you were going through. For me your site is about a 10 min escape from the world, during my lunch break at work, that allows me a quick re-charge, and I have always enjoyed your work. I hope you stay separated from the people who use theme park news as a political talking point, and keep writing for the theme park fan. You work has brought a lot of joy to many over the years !

September 17, 2020 at 5:01 PM

Dear Russell,
While I certainly understand your perspective, and I am certain that Disneyland could be opened right now in a safe way, I also think we need to acknowledge the incredible challenge that elected officials face right now in dealing with this outbreak. All results of any policy decisions are always 3-4 weeks delayed from the action (in the case of positive test results) and two months delayed (in the case of deaths). I actually appreciate that California has identified clear markers it is using (on a county basis, website is COVID19.ca.gov) to determine when things are safe enough to open. This motivates people to improve their own mask-wearing et--as the communities have lower rates, things can open more. The politicization of the whole thing has been to pit the "safety" people against the "business" people, but we all know that in order for people to go out and spend money, they have to feel safe. Sure, some of us might be willing to take more risks, but the decision to be careful with opening up again is not an anti-business decision. The conversations about risk seem to change for people once they've been living in an area where the ICUs start to overflow with critical patients. 200,000 dead is not a joke, and our own personal feelings about freedom and responsibility don't stop the fact that we need a coordinated response from business, individuals, and all levels of government to prevent more unnecessary deaths. As for the decisions regarding theme parks specifically, I do believe there are some other political considerations. For instance: while Disney is probably much more prepared to both protect its guests and require compliance with safety rules, it doesn't look good if Disney is open and available before houses of worship. So, it's complicated, and as much as I love theme parks, in the face of a life and death pandemic outbreak, it is hard to argue that they are necessary for health. (having said that, I miss them tremendously, and I do know that especially Disney and Universal have already proven their ability to handle this the right way).

September 17, 2020 at 6:05 PM

My problem with California's approach is not that Disneyland and other theme parks are still closed. My problem is that they are kept closed with absolutely no information on what the state is looking for before they reopen, especially given that the state is allowing many types of businesses with statistically greater risk to open. For the past few months, I've felt like we're being hyper specific about everything, and it's led to far more economic suppression than is warranted. Technically, every element of a theme park is able to operate on its own in Orange Couty, but when you put a fence around it all and charge admission it suddenly becomes unsafe (at least that's how I read things currently). When someone can tell me why it is safe for shopping centers, museums, zoos, aquariums, places of worship, gyms, fitness centers, restaurants, and family entertainment centers to be open, yet Disneyland is still too dangerous despite the demonstrated safety protocols in place in Florida and lack of any significant spread connected to their operation, then I might reconsider reopening. Until then, my stance is that what we're doing now makes little logical sense, and thus all outdoor businesses should reopen immediately, as that may do more good for public health as a whole than any other measure we've got right now.

September 17, 2020 at 6:06 PM

If people haven’t yet figured out a little slower and a little more cautious reopening is better than having to slam everything into full reverse... then there’s really no reaching you.... That’s not directed at anyone here, but those who it applies to know who they are.

On a completely different topic, I can understand why it may seem crazy that although X and Y have similar risk profiles, you can do X and not Y. However, I think that’s looking at it a bit too narrowly.

I imagine the discussions probably go “if we allow X now, we’ll see A infections, leading to B deaths. If we allow Y now, we’ll see similar numbers. But if we allow both X and Y, then we’ll see more that 2A and 2B as the increased opportunity to spread crosses the two.

If A and B are “acceptable “ numbers but 2A and 2B are not, AND we want to maximise liberty, then a choice needs to be made, and not everyone is always going to agree with that judgement call.

Personally, if I was in the chair and I was told “Zoos And Aquariums, or theme parks can work, but not both”, I’m going to pick the Animal attractions. I know that might be heresy on a theme park website, but a Zoo’s animal care has to continue at or near 100% regardless of whether the gate is open, the Theme Park’s attractions don’t. Frankly, they need the economic opportunity more to keep the animals fed and cared for, theme park staffers can be looked after by other programs.

September 17, 2020 at 8:00 PM

I agree with both AJ and Russell, the hypocrisy is driving me crazy. However I do understand Jonah's point

September 17, 2020 at 10:33 PM

With huge externalities involved, everyone should care. If a young caregiver theme park fan gets infected, odds are he is not the one paying the highest price to give on particular drastic example. And yes I'm aware there is no confirmed real life case of that. In addition, some kind of judgment is involved beyond expert assessment, which of many possible measures are most tolerable. In other words, a politicians job. He can do that job more or less competent, more or less cynical, more or less populist. At the end of the day, one might have a case for better politicians, but never for no politicians. Some countries outsource many decisions from elected politicians to committees of corporate and union reps. But even in that case, that is the corporate and union reps doing a political job. Ultimately they are still relying on elected politicians to give their nod of approval.

September 18, 2020 at 9:48 AM

Chad H makes a good point regarding his zoo/aquarium versus theme park example, though if that were the case, officials should just state that instead of hiding being contorted statistics and hypocritical actions. I also completely agree with Jonah that the position that elected (and appointed) officials are being placed in right now is a very difficult one - almost a Kobayashi Maru. However, if they want the population to abide by and support their decisions, they need to outline clear and attainable objectives and the underlying reasoning for why they're doing what they're doing. In many areas that's simply not happening, and in a few places, officials are deliberately contorting or cherry picking statistics to support their positions and ignoring very clear and rational arguments to the contrary.

What's maddening is that this isn't just happening in places where officials are keeping things closed, it's also happening in places where officials are clearly opening too quickly, and using skewed data to support their decisions while not listening to sound rationale from experts and constituents pleading to slow down or apply more restrictions. Instead of clearly articulating why certain decisions are being made, officials are going to a pre-ordained punch list of talking points that regurgitate old data and often misunderstandings about the way the virus spreads. Even though people and experts with sound and current scientific proof are offering a clear rebuke to these decisions, officials are more afraid of being labeled a "flip-flopper" than modifying their decisions to compromise with more currently available data and hypotheses. These officials cite "science" in their proclamations, but ignore the fact that science is an ever-evolving search for the truth, and that theories/hypotheses are constantly tested and disproved, requiring a constant modification of thinking to gain the greatest understanding of a problem.

Officials are willing to stand their ground simply because they don't want to lose their job, not because they care about human health, which is why we see all of this hypocrisy around the country. Until officials and governments are willing to change and compromise their views as scientists gain more and more knowledge about this virus, the areas being kept under strict restrictions are no better off than areas where officials have flung the doors open.

September 18, 2020 at 1:09 PM

Thank you Russell for your clear and logical posts.

To address some of the other posts:

Our politicians are *NOT* scientists and you are misguided if you think they always place your well being above their own (regardless of your political affiliation). California's extremely aggressive lockdowns have not produced vastly different infection rates. In fact, California is exactly in the middle of the US when it comes to infection rates - approximately 2% (see Worldometer Covid data for reference).

There are many amusement parks open in the US and *NONE* of them have shown to be "super spreaders". I believe they are doing a great job with temp checks, requiring masks and allowances for social distancing. I visited Silver Dollar City about a month ago and was very impressed with the measures they had in place.

It's disappointing to see comments like "The entire reason we're in this mess is too many not taking it anywhere near serious enough". That's entirely untrue. The reason we are in this mess is because CHINA unleashed a virus on us that is extremely contagious. Period.

Lastly - when did advocating for freedom become a political affiliation indicator? The job of our politicians should be deciding on the safety mandates - masks, social distancing, temp checks, etc. They should NOT be deciding which businesses should be open or which groups can meet. Let the people decide how much risk they are comfortable with. If you are elderly, overweight, have pre-existing medical conditions or are just kind of paranoid - please take extra precautions. Stay at home and have all your food/necessities delivered to you there if you like. But just because that's your choice, don't force it on the rest of us that are taking sensible precautions when in public.

September 18, 2020 at 12:38 PM

Standing Ovation for Damonator!!!

September 20, 2020 at 11:32 AM

>>Lastly - when did advocating for freedom become a political affiliation indicator?

The minute public health, scientific advice and doing the right thing for the community became a political affiliation indicator.

>>The job of our politicians should be deciding on the safety mandates - masks, social distancing, temp checks, etc. They should NOT be deciding which businesses should be open or which groups can meet.

Those are exactly the same things though.

>> Let the people decide how much risk they are comfortable with

And that would be fair enough if the risk you were assuming was only for you.

When you decide to go to a big crowded hall for some social thing you don't have to go to, you're assuming the risk for everyone else you're going to encounter. You're assuming the risk for the person you pass in the grocery store who has noone else to shop for them, but is immuno-compromised. You're assuming the risk for everyone in the hospital you might have to go to if you get a serious case of it. You're assuming the risk for not just the carer, but the person they care for by going and getting that persons medication.

You are not assuming the risk purely for yourself. You do not have the right to assume the risk for the rest of the community like that.

September 20, 2020 at 12:50 PM

JMB says: But...people are dumb Russell. They proved that plenty in regular times, and they've put that into overdrive the last few months. We need our government to protect us from them.

I say: The government is made up of those same dumb people.

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