Governor: 'No Hurry' for Theme Park Reopening Rules

October 7, 2020, 2:52 PM · Don't look for Disneyland and other major theme parks in the state of California to be reopening anytime soon. California Governor Gavin Newsom said today that the state would be "stubborn" about preserving a "health-first framework" toward theme parks' return, with "no hurry" to put out guidelines.

When asked about Disney Chairman Bob Iger's resignation from the governor's economic recovery task force, Gov. Newsom said,

"It didn't come to me as a surprise at all — there's disagreements in terms of opening a major theme park. We're going to let science and data make that determination. I understand the dialectic, the friction, the frustration that many business leaders have — that they want to move forward sectorally to to reopen. But we are going to be led by a health-first framework, and we're going to be stubborn about it. That's our commitment — that's our resolve. We feel there's no hurry putting out guidelines.

"We're continuing to work with the industry, and, by the way, amusement parks aren't just Disney. You've got all kinds of amusement parks, including smaller parks that are out there — the piers like down in Santa Cruz and others that may be impacted. And so we're trying to work through all of those things. It's very complex. These are like small cities, small communities, small towns, but we don't anticipate, in the immediate turn, any of these larger theme parks opening until we see more stability in terms of the data."

California today reported 2,764 new Covid-19 cases and 51 new deaths due to the disease — both a 0.3 percent increase from the previous day.

Update: Disney Parks on Wednesday evening released a statement from its Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Pamela Hymel.

"We absolutely reject the suggestion that reopening the Disneyland Resort is incompatible with a 'health-first' approach. The fact is, that since March we have taken a robust science-based approach to responsibly reopening our parks and resorts across the globe. Our health and safety protocols were developed in consultation with epidemiologists and data scientists, and after considering guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and experts in local government and health agencies. All of our other theme parks both in the United States and around the world have been allowed to open on the strength of our proven ability to operate with responsible health and safety protocols."

Update 2: And here is a statement from Six Flags Magic Mountain:

"At Six Flags Magic Mountain, the safety of our guests and team members is our highest priority. In consultation with our epidemiologist, we have developed wide-ranging safety standards that exceed city, state, and CDC guidelines. Since June, we have safely reopened and operated 15 outdoor theme parks and water parks across multiple states and countries throughout North America. We implemented technologically advanced safety procedures including an online reservation system and a contactless entry process. The feedback from city and state leaders has been consistent—Six Flags and the industry have served as a best-in-class example of how to safely reopen all types of businesses.

"These health and safety plans have been shared in great detail with California state and local officials. In good faith, Six Flags Magic Mountain began preparing for reopening by implementing all procedures outlined in our plan, including reconfiguring guest traffic patterns and processes on rides to comply with six-foot social distancing, procurement of safety equipment and cleaning supplies, posting safety signage throughout the park, and training of team members for effective communication and strict enforcement of all mandated guidelines. We are more than ready and eager to reopen our park. Importantly, our team members are ready to welcome our loyal guests.

"It is imperative that the state work with the industry to review all theme parks’ plans and visit the parks to see for themselves the significant efforts to safely and securely reopen during the pandemic. We are asking the state to provide us with achievable next steps in order for California’s theme park industry to successfully come back to life.

"Let’s work together to reopen, and to ensure we keep Californians in California in a safe, fun, and outdoor environment."

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Replies (31)

October 7, 2020 at 2:56 PM

So the governor's message to theme park employees is "You're jobs are not my concern" or to put it another way, "Sucks to be you."

This man is heartless.

October 7, 2020 at 3:07 PM

I think he's thinking more about people who have died or might be infected than people who have lost their jobs. Especially since California has been one of the better states in processing and paying massive numbers of unemployment claims. You can help the unemployed. You can't help the dead.

That said, I wish that Gov. Newsom would make explicit just what he means by "more stability in the data." Disney has made a strong case on behalf of the industry that parks can prevent the spread of the disease inside their gates. But Dr. Ghaly's comments yesterday suggested that the state has a concern about transmission outside of the parks by people drawn to travel by the parks being open.

That's a fair point, but I would rather the state be explicit about what it's looking for rather than just throwing out excuses for why they are not doing something that Gov. Newsom's comments today suggest they do not wish to do.

October 7, 2020 at 3:14 PM

@ThCreative that heartless comment would be based of perspective. You may think it’s heartless. There’s many who think opening the parks when there are 51 deaths & over 2700 new cases reported today is heartless. No one wins but we rarely see a government official actually chose lives over money so I’m willing to put my theme park-pride aside as much as I want them open. Yes it sucks but our Gov will step on toes no matter what decision he makes.

October 7, 2020 at 9:07 PM

"Especially since California has been one of the better states in processing and paying massive numbers of unemployment claims."

I'm sure these words will be nothing but comfort to the thousands of CMs that lose their jobs and are faced with the fear & anxiety that comes with an uncertain future. The job market is scarce and unemployment is not some magical, endless well of money. This type of sentiment is an incredibly naïve way of thinking.

October 7, 2020 at 3:28 PM

"until we see more stability in terms of the data."

Stability (noun) - the quality of being unchanged

I'm not sure if Governor Newsom has a background in science or perhaps he is aware of a different definition or meaning of stability than I, but the data certainly don't support this assertion. When you look at the new case and death graphs for the State of California, they are flat with a slight downward trend since a peak on August 11. The data presented over the past 30 days are actually a textbook scientific example of "stability".

In reality, the state's goal is NOT to reach "stability", it is to reach unattainable eradication of the virus that will decimate entire industries and livelihoods beholden to such unrealistic and politically motivated strong-arm tactics. The current data clearly show "stability" over a 30+ day period, conditions under which numerous other businesses and industries are being allowed to operate. Newsom has chosen to stand on this issue without any shred of scientific evidence to demonstrate that the operation of theme parks would affect virus data either locally, regionally, or state-wide. This has become nothing more than a "pissing contest" that is not benefiting anyone, and is not improving the health of Californians one bit.

October 7, 2020 at 3:28 PM

@BubbaBlackout: The governor's use of the word "stubborn" is heartless. The total unwillingness to travel to Florida to see how the parks are successfully operating and how UOR and WDW are working to maintain safety for guests and employees is an example of this stubbornness. Not offering a single ray of light.

And worse of all, the way he frames the argument as if the only interest is a corporate interest -- ignoring the fact the park workers are also calling for the parks to open. That's incredibly disrespectful.

October 7, 2020 at 3:36 PM

"You can help the unemployed. You can't help the dead."

Then why are any businesses allowed to operate in California?

October 7, 2020 at 5:21 PM

It sounds to me like the cooperative approach has failed. While I'm sure both sides are partly to blame, I do feel the lion's share is on the state who is unwilling to accept protocols that have been proven to work successfully elsewhere and are instead suppressing the industry because they're worried about problems tourism brings without making attempts to rectify those issues in any other tourism-related sector (many of which have been allowed some degree of reopening). There is no reasonable explanation for what is being done here, and unless the state is willing to outright define what unique aspect of theme parks is not present in other tourism-related sectors and necessitates their extended closure, the actions over the past month open them up to a potentially devastating lawsuit.

I see two pathways forward from here, neither of them good for the state:

Option A: The theme parks band together and sue California. This could take a while to prompt any action, but they'd very likely win and be allowed to reopen. However, this could end up getting the whole reopening protocols declared unconstitutional, which would destroy any gains made by the tremendous sacrifices of the past year.

Option B: Theme parks decide there is no viable path to reopening in California until the pandemic passes and go into hibernation mode. This would result in the layoff of virtually every employee, putting even more strain on California's economy. However, with many of those collecting unemployment since March, this situation would likely lead to massive bankruptcy, homelessness, and exodus from the state in the first half of 2021.

Both of these can be avoided if theme parks are simply allowed to open under guidelines implemented elsewhere, and the impacts of restoring that industry would improve many other aspects of the state. However, if Newsom insists on shuttering the state's second largest industry indefinitely against the recommendations of science and data, California will die.

October 7, 2020 at 7:20 PM

In a nutshell, this is Newsom's message to DLR and USH employees: "We feel there's no hurry putting out guidelines."

How does that dovetail with California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly's assurance, "We're working hard to get that out in a responsible way as soon as possible."

October 7, 2020 at 11:50 PM

The only people winning in this situation are the PR firms Disney/the California government are using to write these ridiculous statements targeted at each other.

October 8, 2020 at 6:41 AM

@the_man: When you write "the only people who are winning" could you please explain how you believe Governor Newsom is "losing"? How this short-sighted decision that has no basis in empirical evidence as it relates to the protocols already in place at WDW and UOR -- protocols that do not limit visiting guests to a restricted geographic area -- having a detrimental effect on Newsom? Where is he making a sacrifice?

October 8, 2020 at 6:48 AM

I don't have anything to add other than to say that Russell Meyer is 100% spot on with his comments here and in other threads. He articulates my feelings on the subject perfectly.

October 8, 2020 at 11:30 AM

I live in California and TH C, AJ, Andrew and Russell have hit the nail on the head.

October 8, 2020 at 12:44 PM

Working in healthcare for 30 years, I can tell you thousands and thousands die every year from the regular flu virus. What is different this year is they decided to take out a large high-light marker and brought all this into the spot light. Add the news media into the mix and everyone is panicked. Just during a regular flu season, all our ICU beds would be full and the entire hospital would be at 104 % capacity, which meant patients that were admissions were in “hallways” or sitting in the E.R. or other units. We have had many years much, much, worse then this “COVID-19” year. In fact this spring and summer, the average for all of Florida’s hospital in-house admissions was hovering around 64%. I worked in hospital in 4 States in the Emergency room and I can assure you we were not all wearing mask all day long. The biggest thing is to isolate the sick with symptoms, use PPE, and wash your hands a million times a day. We certainly did not isolate the entire population. Hence this is an election year, so I guess the “Never let a crisis go to waste” statement is true.

October 8, 2020 at 1:55 PM

Oh look, someone suggesting Covid is just like the flu, or even not as bad the Flu in some years! That's factually just not true.

More people have died from Covid this year than in the past 5 flu seasons COMBINED. https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/06/health/flu-covid-19-deaths-comparison-trnd/index.html

https://www.cnn.com/politics/live-news/trump-covid-19-updates-tuesday/h_5da59c431e62a1c19c0899cfcf73d3ba

That data is from the CDC.

So, yeah this is pretty serious. But I do think that theme parks can indeed open safely. Or as safely as one can open during a pandemic.

If all other businesses can open in California, why not theme parks? Precautions seem to be working well in Florida and in other countries.

October 8, 2020 at 2:48 PM

@AJ you write "There is no reasonable explanation for what is being done here"

You mean other than the raging pandemic that killed 1,000 Americans yesterday and newly infected 53,000 more?

"[U]nless the state is willing to outright define what unique aspect of theme parks is not present in other tourism-related sectors and necessitates their extended closure, the actions over the past month open them up to a potentially devastating lawsuit."

Do you believe a California court is going to hold the Governor liable for trying to SAVE LIVES? Yes, I remember when they successfully prosecuted Winston Churchill for requiring businesses to keep their lights off during the Nazi night bombings. Pubs went out of business!


@atlblaze You write: "Precautions seem to be working well in Florida and in other countries."

1000 people died from the virus yesterday. Do you believe that's "doing very well"?

October 8, 2020 at 2:52 PM

We do need to handle rhetoric and I am concerned over some goofs (not here but other forums) going "folks are going to rise up." Because in case you didn't hear, the FBI just arrested a dozen guys for an insane plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan and then try to "overthrow" the state government to "take it back from tyranny" (their words).

So yeah, I do worry about some lunatics deciding that something extreme is needed in California. There are some unstable folks out there and this "Newsom is draconian" talk doesn't help calm things down.

October 8, 2020 at 2:53 PM

@thecolonel: In Illinois, numerous lawsuits filed to get Pritzker to reopen back in spring...all turned down by the courts ruling he had the power for this. And ditto in several other states.

October 8, 2020 at 3:03 PM

I think thecolonel should stick to keeping his spice blend secret. The point that most are trying to make here when rebutting Governor Newsom is that his policies are hypocritical. If you believe the government should do everything in its power to protect every single American life, than why is Gov. Newsom's own winery open for business? Why are people allowed to go to the beach? Why are people from both inside and outside of California allowed to visit museums, art galleries, libraries, historical sites, parks, and zoos? If the government MUST protect every American, why are Californian's not locked down in their homes until this raging pandemic is over?

"Do you believe a California court is going to hold the Governor liable for trying to SAVE LIVES?"

No, but I think there is very strong legal precedent for a business to be awarded damages for government malfeasance that gave preferential treatment to one company or industry over another. Again, there are plenty of tourism-related businesses that are being allowed to operate and function within the State of California. It's very possible that the authorities feel that theme parks represent a specific and unique threat to the health and safety of citizens right now, and that's all fine and dandy. However, the State of California has yet to articulate or communicate those to industry professionals or to even bother listening to the industry's concerns and plans to reopen safely. It's complete and utter negligence on the part of Gov. Newsom and the California government to not publicly address this situation.

October 8, 2020 at 5:42 PM

Thecolonel, you seem to have a repeated pattern of twisting statements wildly out of context. I do not know whether this is intentional solely to provoke a response or because you are truly missing the point, but it is not conducive to any sort of reasonable debate. Therefore, I will no longer be engaging you in any discussion relating to this topic.

October 8, 2020 at 6:19 PM

I don’t know which is worse - DeSantis doesn’t give a *hit who gets sick and Newsome on the other extreme doesn’t care about their economic survival. For visitors, it’s simple, go to Disney World if you miss a small world that much !

October 8, 2020 at 6:45 PM

AJ writes: “Thecolonel, you seem to have a repeated pattern of twisting statements wildly out of context. ”

Me: And as everyone at TPI knows, that’s MY job!

October 8, 2020 at 6:55 PM

Theme Parks:
Give us the rules! Give us the rules!Give us the rules! Give us the rules!
Give us the rules! Give us the rules!Give us the rules! Give us the rules!

State: We're still working on them...

Theme Parks:
Give us the rules! Give us the rules!Give us the rules! Give us the rules!

State: Here are your rules...

Theme Parks:
Oh wait, we don't like these rules, don't issue them or make them public.

Us: Still arguing.....

If you don't think about it,... it almost makes sense.

October 9, 2020 at 7:40 AM

I can kind of get why they’re uneasy. California is in the blessed position of not just having theme parks, but international attraction level theme parks. Opening a theme park at that level brings with it the risk of people coming from worse areas and bringing the infection with them; and that’s in addition to the additions to the local infection cocktail - a shot won’t get you drunk, maybe even two won’t, but 10 shots taken at the same time will, even if they have the same strength individually as that 1 shot.

October 9, 2020 at 9:00 AM

You make a great point Chad H, but it would be great if California would cite that as the main reason why they're dragging their feet on this. However, the more this drags on, and the more the state acts like stubborn, pig-headed teenager, it's becoming eminently clear that the State of California has no idea what it's doing. I don't think they're considering cumulative hazards, because Newsom directly cited the diversity of the industry, specifically calling out Santa Monica Pier, as a potential reasoning for the delay, not the cumulative effect of the theme park industry operating alongside other tourism industries (that inference came from Dr. Ghaly). What that means to me is that if the state is using any science and rationale to guide their decision making, the state is playing to the lowest common denominator, and doesn't think smaller operators can achieve the same level of guest protections as the "big boys".

From all indications, the industry provided reasonable guidelines and case studies to demonstrate gold-standard health and safety practices, and the State took those and decided to increase the protections a full order of magnitude. Instead of striking a compromise, the State stubbornly regurgitate impossible to achieve metrics and standards without consultation with industry professionals. The State also has failed to provide any rationale or evidence to support why such strict metrics and standards are necessary despite the industry's real-world operational expertise in other parts of the world, which is supported by dozens of health and medical experts.

The State of California needs to be the adult in the room, but is instead acting like a petulant child that refuses to listen to reason.

October 9, 2020 at 9:09 AM

As much as I want to vist a themepark I am happy that any venue that encourages gatherings of large amounts of people remain closed.

With the best will in the world any protocols put in place can and will be broken by some people who attend, this is not the fault of the venue itself.

For me life matters more during this pandemic staying away and protecting the most vulnerable in our society.

Hopefully a vaccine is not to far away and we can once again get to enjoy all that these great places have to offer.

October 9, 2020 at 10:05 AM

I do agree Russel. I think we need to start demiystifying and depoliticising the decision making process, and the traffic light system was a great start, but evidently it’s not enough.

Set Total Infection and spread level guidelines, say specifically who can open at each state, make sure all sectors are included, and let it run. Publish the rationale and statistics daily, and then the implementation of new rules shouldn’t ever be a suprise... youll see it coming.

October 10, 2020 at 12:50 PM

A note to the IDIOT governor: Headline in today's New York Times "At Disney World, 'Worst Fears' About Virus Have Not Come True."

October 10, 2020 at 4:08 PM

MAXIMIZE THE PAIN FOR POLITICAL GAIN!

October 10, 2020 at 4:09 PM

WDW IS THE "SAFEST PLACE ON EARTH"!

October 10, 2020 at 4:37 PM

Whogusthewhatsler... A TPI member since five seconds ago ... I will give you the benefit of the doubt amd assume you are not drawing an SOC paycheck.

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