Earlier this week Disney announced 28,000 layoffs across the company. The Walt Disney Co. partially blamed California’s strict reopening rules for massive layoffs in its theme park division after trying unsuccessfully to get officials to allow Disneyland to reopen.
Although the layoffs affect employees across the U.S., executives cited in their decision California’s “unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen.”
Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney’s parks, experiences and products, said in a letter to employees, “As heartbreaking as it is to take this action, this is the only feasible option we have in light of the prolonged impact of COVID-19 on our business.”
Disneyland officials have said the parks are ready to reopen and can do so safely. They originally proposed reopening plans back in June but California governor Newsom and his advisors persuaded park officials to hold off.
The state of California has allowed other businesses to reopen and now has a 4-tiered economic reopening program. Theme parks, however, are not included in the program.
State public health officials have been meeting with amusement park representatives since the outbreak first began, with recent talks focused on the complex natures of those attractions, which have drawn millions of visitors annually. Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s Health and Human Services secretary, said initially, Disneyland and other parks were not expected to open until the final stage of the pandemic recovery when herd immunity was established.
“When you think about an amusement park, there’s components that are indoor and outdoor and there’s different things, like there’s water rides,” Ghaly said. “People usually come to the parks for weekends or weeks. It’s a family event. You’re in hotels and restaurants. If you keep your guard up while you’re in the park, you may take your guard down when it comes to transmission in all these related activities.”
The closure of Disneyland has had a horrible effect on the city of Anaheim. Unemployment in the city is at 12%, the same as during the Great Recession, according to Mayor Harry Sidhu. “This is not a choice between public health and the economy,” he said in a statement. “There is a safe, responsible middle path … We need to begin restoring our economy in a way that protects public health and also allows people to support their families.”
State legislators, city officials, and theme park officials have all urged Governor Newsom to allow theme parks to reopen. The administration is supposed to issue reopen guidelines sometime today.
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