Park of the Week: Islands of Adventure

California Mayors Pitch for Theme Parks' Return

November 2, 2020, 4:18 PM · Eight mayors from cities across California — including Los Angeles' Eric Garcetti — have written a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom asking him to reconsider the state's reopening guidelines for theme parks.

Here is the letter [updated with full text]: "As mayors of the Big City Mayor's Coalition representing some of the largest cities in California, we again thank you for your leadership during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.

"We write to you today regarding the ongoing discussion surrounding the safe re-opening protocols for some of the largest economic engines in many of our communities – large theme parks.

"The guidelines put forth by your Administration were released within the framework of prioritizing public health and safety for guests and employees. This is the right focus. However, economic and public health are not mutually exclusive goals. We are concerned that the state's guidelines would push re-opening of large theme parks up to a year out, which would have significant negative impacts on hundreds of thousands of jobs, thousands of small businesses, and billions in operating revenue for our cities.

"As you may have recently seen, labor unions and employee groups representing many of the workers at these theme parks have joined in calls for a timely, safe reopening. This call is a result of their direct knowledge of the health and safety protocols, and their need to get back to work.

"We therefore respectfully request that your Administration work with our most impacted coalition members – Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Diego – to continue the discussion of how we can maintain a health-first focus while modifying protocols to allow large theme parks to open in Tier Three with reduced capacity, rather than Tier Four.

"We all understand the difficult balance of protecting public health while allowing safe economic activity. We are grounded in the evidence we and your Administration have seen in large theme parks in or near our jurisdictions, and from theme park reopening efforts in the nation and worldwide, that this can occur. For example, by means of 25% capacity limit, required advance ticket reservations, mandatory mask wearing with strict enforcement, and temperature screening at entrances. To the extent that your health care officials have seen different data, we would appreciate understanding it, because we want to be supportive of your efforts.

"Please let us know when our members can arrange a timely briefing with your Administration to understand these new guidelines and the impact they will have on our public health and economies."

Pirates of the Caribbean
Our now-standard photo for California theme park reopening stories.

The letter was signed by Garcetti, Anaheim's Harry Sidhu, San Diego's Kevin Faulconer, San Jose's Sam Liccardo, Fresno's Lee Brand, Bakersfield's Karen Goh, Riverside's Rusty Bailey, and Santa Ana's Miguel Pulido.

The guidelines released by the state last month would not allow big parks such as Disneyland, Universal Studios, Knott's Berry Farm, SeaWorld San Diego, and Six Flags Magic Mountain to open until their counties reach the state's "Yellow" Tier 4 for "minimal" Covid-19 transmission. Disneyland's Orange County is currently in Tier 2, while Universal's Los Angeles County remains in Tier 1, the state's most restrictive.

However, several theme parks in the state have resumed partial operations under reopening guidance for other industries, including zoos, dining, and retail.

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Replies (10)

November 2, 2020 at 6:01 PM

California is mostly yellow--half of the country is bright red. You open Disneyland, and those infected people are coming this way.

Why not close the state borders, require quarantine from anyone out of state, and if we're still yellow in two weeks, then open it?

Californian have worked hard to achieve this success, but my kids still can't go back to school. As a general rule, if school can't open, Disneyland shouldn't open.

November 2, 2020 at 10:23 PM

I'm sorry but given the way spikes are happening all over to the point several states are going back on crackdowns of dining and such, opening one of the busiest theme parks around is sheer madness.

November 3, 2020 at 12:18 AM

I find it interesting that LA seems to be spearheading this, especially since Garcetti has been among the toughest on lockdown measures (even more than Newsom in some cases). I've got a feeling they ran the numbers and realized how devastating six to nine months more of theme park closure would actually be, and talk from multiple park operators about exploring exit strategies from the California market probably spooked them a bit as well. Truthfully, there's very little justification to not at least allow 25% capacity operation with outdoor attractions only for locals in the red tier, especially given what else California allows to operate. Like I've said before, Knott's would be made safer if the rides were allowed to be turned on, and it's ridiculous that California has less of a problem with me spending a week in Orlando than a day at Disneyland.

November 3, 2020 at 9:23 AM

Thecoloniel makes a good point and highlights a key strategy utilized around the globe, but completely missing from California's virus mitigation plans. Allowing people to freely come in and out of the state will lead to spread as much, if not more than allowing theme parks to open for locals. What's strange is that California is going to force parks to limit visitors to their local geography anyway, so if the fear is that the virus invades the state from other states with high community spread, than it's just another example of hypocrisy from the State of California since ONLY theme parks are being held to this standard while other businesses can welcome customers from anywhere in the world.

I do agree that the trends from other parts of the world suggest that even if California were to allow theme parks to open now, they probably wouldn't be able to stay open very long before infection rates went up too high to consider a theme park visit safe even under enhanced safety protocols. However, if the state had gotten off their hands months ago, Disneyland and other theme parks around the state could have operated safely for a few months like other parks around the world before infection rates reached intolerable levels.

November 3, 2020 at 10:26 AM

I accidentally deleted my original post, haha.

Robert, you write: "What's strange is that California is going to force parks to limit visitors to their local geography anyway, so if the fear is that the virus invades the state from other states with high community spread, than it's just another example of hypocrisy from the State of California since ONLY theme parks are being held to this standard while other businesses can welcome customers from anywhere in the world."

Sure, but when the Santa Monica Applebees opens people from North Dakota don't start planning a visit. I mean, the reason to limit people from out of state to Disneyland is because people travel from out of state for Disneyland.

I keep looking at the national map, which is blood red in most of the middle and eastern part of the country, but blissfully yellow in nearly all of Cali (looks like the area around Bakersfield is going orange). If you open Disneyland, people from those red states (that works two ways!) are coming here, and bringing their virus with them.

The dumbest part of this whole thing is that it's so simple: if 95% of the people wore masks all the time in public, Disneyland could be open. The problem isn't Newsome or Garcetti or anyone but Trump, who has convinced America's dumbest 35% that masks are bad, m'kay. That's the problem.

November 3, 2020 at 10:40 AM

Garcetti is dealing with a big scandal right now and is just trying to deflect people's attention.

November 3, 2020 at 11:27 AM

I agree being open to California residents only seems to mitigate most of the issues the government is concerned about. Although i'm sure the hotels will have a big problem with that, its better than nothing.

Also this wouldn't be such a big deal if the federal government had its act together about stimulus. If the legislation to give money to unemployed and state & local governments passed we wouldn't be seeing so much pressure to re-open and spread the virus. I live in Orlando, we all know that there are people from all over the country coming here and packing our attractions/hotels/restaurants and probably spreading the virus (not necessarily at Disney but other businesses in the area that don't care as much), but ultimately we have no choice because if we didn't allow that we would all lose everything.

November 3, 2020 at 1:26 PM

"Sure, but when the Santa Monica Applebees opens people from North Dakota don't start planning a visit. I mean, the reason to limit people from out of state to Disneyland is because people travel from out of state for Disneyland."

How can non-Californians plan a visit to Disneyland if the state explicitly prohibits it, and forces the parks to only grant entry to locals?

People are still traveling to California from other states (and vice versa) even though Disneyland is closed for the tourist attractions within the state that are still open, and not limiting admission to in-state residents.

November 4, 2020 at 1:17 PM

"How can non-Californians plan a visit to Disneyland if the state explicitly prohibits it, and forces the parks to only grant entry to locals?"

Are they saying they are going to do that? If so, great.

Sure, people are still traveling to Cali from other states, but with Disneyland and other tourist destinations closed, less of them are coming, and that's important.

November 4, 2020 at 1:59 PM

"Are they saying they are going to do that? If so, great."

Did you not read the guidance that California gave to theme parks? The parks don't seem to be resisting those aspects of the guidance, and even noted that they typically draw most of their audience from locals, which would fall in line with the state's goals to prevent infiltration of people from areas of high community spread. The park's contention is that they're not even allowed to operate with those restrictions anywhere within the state right now while other tourist destinations are.

"Sure, people are still traveling to Cali from other states, but with Disneyland and other tourist destinations closed, less of them are coming, and that's important."

But most of the primarily outdoor tourist destinations that are closed are the theme parks, and even when theme parks are allowed open, they'll be the only places restricted to locals ONLY (unlike other tourist destinations that can be visited by ANYONE). That's where the hypocrisy lies in California's guidance. People from around the world can visit World-class tourist destinations like Yosemite National Park or Alcatraz or the San Diego Zoo, but theme parks remain closed (even for outdoor attractions) to everyone.

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