Earlier this afternoon, California Governor Gavin Newsom, single-handedly gave a devastating blow to Southern California’s already struggling economy and tourism industry.
During Newsom’s press conference, he laid out his plans for theme parks to reopen in the state of California. Already, a stark contrast to the state of Florida, where our governor left the reopening of theme parks in the hands of theme park executives, local elected officials, and a task-force team. Governor DeSantis put the final seal of approval on reopening plans, but he was the farthest thing from involved. Florida’s Governor didn’t micromanage anyone, he trusted those in the theme park industry would develop a plan based on science, data, and one that would create the safest environment possible in order to reopen. Obviously, Governor Newsom didn’t get take a page from DeSantis’ book.
Instead, the Governor concocted a plan that is essentially impossible to meet. It’s as if his plan was to set these parks up for failure from the start.
According to the new guidelines, Disneyland, Universal Studios, and other theme parks cannot open until they are in Newsom’s yellow tier for opening.
As per the chart above, the least restrictive yellow tier requires less than 1 average daily cases per 100,000 residents and a positive testing rate of less than 2%. Orange County currently has a case rate of 4.6 and a positive testing rate of 3.2%, keeping it in the red tier for the sixth consecutive week.
I know what you’re thinking, “how hard can it be to move up a tier?” I assumed it to be not that difficult until I starting doing research for this article. At Orange County’s current rate, it’s not going to happen anytime soon.
During today’s press conference, Orange County Health Care Agency Director Clayton Chau said he expects the region to enter into the final, yellow tier by next summer “hopefully.” Did you catch that? Chau expects the OC to “hopefully” be in the yellow tier by “next summer.” One more time for the people in the back, NEXT SUMMMER.
Whenever Disneyland and other theme parks get to that yellow, least restrictive tier, they will be able to open but with several restrictions. Some of these restrictions include;
- Capped at 25% capacity.
- Face masks required (unless eating or drinking).
- Park reservations will be required.
- All ride queues will need to be outdoors.
During the press conference, a reporter asked what would happen if a county had more positive cases, technically sliding back a tier? If that were to happen, the state could potentially shut down the county and it’s theme parks for a second time. For reference, several counties in California have experienced just that. They have moved up a tier, cases were on the rise, and they were inevitably knocked back down to the tier below.
To obtain the coveted yellow tier status, the virus would essentially have to be completely gone. That, in itself, is proven to be unattainable for Orange County within a reasonable time frame. As per Disney’s official statement, “These state guidelines will keep us shuttered for the foreseeable future.” I’m not going to lie, Disney’s statement hurt a little bit. More often than not, their press releases and statements are full of hope and sealed with just a little bit of pixie dust. Their statement today was the farthest thing from that, and it certainly didn’t leave me with that “if you can dream it, you can do it” attitude.
Just so you can truly understand and grasp the reality of the impossible situation Disneyland has been put in, and how ridiculous Newsom’s color tiered plan is, look at the photo above. If the United States were to adopt Governor Newsom’s plan, there is not a single state in our entire country that would be in Newsom’s yellow tier (tier 4).
Not only did Governor Newsom completely disregard science and data, but it’s also as if Newsom doesn’t realize the relationship between producers/revenue generators in his state and the amount of tax revenue available for the state to spend. Theme park industries were blunt, to put it mildly, in their response to the new guidelines.
Universal Studios Hollywood’s Karen Irwin likewise slammed the lack of scientific rationale for the guidelines;
“Pushing us into Tier Four behind other businesses that have already reopened makes no sense. It ignores science, reason and the economic devastation this will bring to the thousands of our employees, the indirect businesses that rely on us, and our industry overall.”
Kurt Stocks, President of LEGOLAND California slammed the guidelines by saying;
“The guidance issued today by the state is arbitrary and unacceptable to the industry. Not allowing theme parks to open until Tier 4 will destroy the industry in California and the economic impact to industries that rely heavily on theme parks will be catastrophic. The administration’s actions to this point have cost tens of thousands of jobs across the industry, and today’s announcement will all but confirm that thousands more will be lost.
LEGOLAND® California Resort has developed a comprehensive and robust reopening plan, taking every precaution to meet and exceed guidelines given to other businesses and industries since voluntarily closing seven months ago. All seven other LEGOLAND Parks around the world has reopened safely with millions of guests and twenty thousand employees going through the gates without any COVID-19 incidents. The guidance from the Governor is grossly inconsistent with the guidelines given to other industries and lacks any scientific basis that can be supported by the CDPH.”
Ken Potrock, President of Disneyland resort, invoked the labor unions in his statement and predicted that keeping the parks shuttered will “irreparably devastate the Anaheim/Southern California community.” Here’s Disneyland’s official statement; ”
“We have proven that we can responsibly reopen, with science-based health and safety protocols strictly enforced at our theme park properties around the world. Nevertheless, the State of California continues to ignore this fact, instead of mandating arbitrary guidelines that it knows are unworkable and that hold us to a standard vastly different from other reopened businesses and state-operated facilities.
Together with our labor unions, we want to get people back to work, but these State guidelines will keep us shuttered for the foreseeable future, forcing thousands more people out of work, leading to the inevitable closure of small family-owned businesses, and irreparably devastating the Anaheim/Southern California community.”
The desire to have this industry, and its theme parks, reopened isn’t because everyone wants to go ride It’s a Small World or satisfy their craving for a churro. The shuttering of California’s theme parks has devastated not just the people who work there, but the entire tourist industry – particularly in Orange County.
Disneyland is the second largest employer in California. The continuous closure of its parks and resorts impacts over 40,00 employees, 10’s of thousands of community-related jobs, and billions of lost revenue.
California’s theme parks are ESSENTIAL. Again, not because you or I want to take a ride on the wildest ride in the wilderness, but because entire counties depend on these theme parks, and the livelihoods of thousands of Californians are now on the line.
It should also be noted that Newsom also announced at his regular Monday press briefing the state has created a task force made up of 11 scientists to conduct an independent medical review of the safety of any FDA-approved vaccine before administering it to Californians. That’s right, he will not allow Californians to have access to an eventual COVID-19 vaccine until his team completes their own independent study on it. Critics of Newsom have said, that could be towards the end of 2021.
I sincerely hope California’s theme parks, labor unions, and citizens question Newsom to the point where he either changes his approach, or they ultimately take legal action. Newsom’s absurd tiered system emphasizes COVID cases over death rate, making the lowest tier (yellow) unattainable for, as Disney said, the foreseeable future.