California governor in "no hurry" to open theme parks

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday he is in “no hurry” to reopen Disneyland and other California theme parks just one day after his chief medical officer said state officials plan to issue theme park reopening guidelines “as soon as possible.” The seemingly conflicting statements symbolize the limbo California’s theme park operators find themselves in as they seek long-promised reopening guidelines from the state after nearly seven months of coronavirus closures.

Read more from The Orange County Register.

Pagoda Gift Shop's avatar

Is there no legal option these parks can pursue against the governor's office? Seems like they would have done so already at this point?

Back in June Cedar Fair was ready to sue the state of Ohio if they did not allow them to open their two parks. At the time it seemed excessive given that basically no parks were open yet, and only a handful had scheduled dates to reopen.

California...what a state.

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Jeff's avatar

The interesting thing is that this is the industry whose job is safety. It generally avoids harming people, and in this case, it appears to be doing a pretty good job elsewhere.

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I have to admit this is a tough one from the state's standpoint. I am not aware of any transmission traced back to a park, which is good. And, these are generally outdoor locations, which is also good.

But, by the same token, I can also imagine that the state is really scrambling dealing with small businesses and other groups that really are having difficult times as well, to the point that I could see the state truly hasn't gotten to "theme parks" yet. I am guessing movie theaters are also not open in CA yet, and probably a lot of other major businesses as well.

OhioStater's avatar

Maybe I am out of touch with the climate of California, but at this point isn't any effort to re-open this year more or less a mute point? It's almost Halloween, and I highly doubt many out-of-towners are planning/plotting any type of cross-country trip to a place that has any degree of uncertainty.

Sad, and confusing. The park chains seem to be a model of how to do these correctly, especially in a largely outside environment with a controlled/mitigated crowd.

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Walt S said:

I am guessing movie theaters are also not open in CA yet, and probably a lot of other major businesses as well.

I live in Northern California and you're correct that we don't have movie theaters open (although the rumors are that we will in the next few weeks, at least in my county). And San Francisco proper actually did just got the opportunity to but won't. But we do have gyms and barbershops open. And that's what confuses me, how are those businesses open safer than a theme park? You could make the argument that dark rides are more dangerous considering they're indoors and queue indoors but a park like CGA or SFDK or SFMM with limited/no dark rides has to be safer than a gym, right? Especially if you implement some sort of virtual line to limit the amount of time I have to stand next to the same party in line. But I digress.

OhioStater said:

Maybe I am out of touch with the climate of California, but at this point isn't any effort to re-open this year more or less a mute point?

It is not IMO! Most of our parks do run year round in some capacity. All the SoCal parks (except maybe Knotts?) run 365 days a year and of the parks in my neck of the woods, SFDK runs year round on the weekends where CGA's offseason is from January to mid-March so not much of one. This reopening is less of an issue for my parks but for SoCal parks, it's a lot of money they're losing considering that I'd wager a larger percentage of visits to DL/USH are from locals instead of out of towners than Orlando (but I could be off base on that).

Last edited by maverick_2007,

Knott's typically runs 364 days per year; they're closed on December 25. I seem to recall that used to also be the rollover date for all their season passes.

Six Flags Magic Mountain has always been seasonal, but even at that I think it was just weekends only during the school year; but in 2018 or 2019 announced they were switching to year-round daily operation. Obviously that worked really well for them in 2020. 8-(

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OhioStater said:

Maybe I am out of touch with the climate of California, but at this point isn't any effort to re-open this year more or less a mute point? It's almost Halloween, and I highly doubt many out-of-towners are planning/plotting any type of cross-country trip to a place that has any degree of uncertainty.

From what I can gather, the California parks cater to locals much more than the Florida parks. Disneyland is absolutely a "locals park" whereas Walt Disney World is the family vacation capital of the world.

At least in regards to the SoCal parks, they are all year round operations, and now with Magic Mountain, they are all daily. Halloween is a bust, but I'm sure those parks all do well around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday, and it sounds like that may not be an option. But I feel like because of the year round operations with the locals, any time to reopen will be a good time.

eightdotthree's avatar

Disneyland is definitely a local's park. I think that's why I love it so much. The energy is different... and the Fast Passes are old school.

ApolloAndy's avatar

That said, I'm sure from the point of view of the governor, Disneyland is not a "locals" park. I'm planning on taking a trip there from the Bay Area (about 6 hrs away) as soon as it's "reasonable" and I'm pretty sure Disneyland draws from the entire state and everything west of the Rockies. There was a time back in Sept. when the state was working with Disneyland (I think Bob Iger) but for whatever reason, those talks stalled and then something happened with case counts or schools or something. A rumor went around that one of the stipulations of reopening would be limiting attendance to some geographical area.

Last edited by ApolloAndy,

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

This is a (hopefully) once in a lifetime pandemic. As much as I love amusement parks, I think it's been right to keep them closed. Health guidelines in the state of California have said to not spend time with people outside of our household until just recently, and even now it's still not advisable for more than 3 households to get together at one time. Opening the parks would be in direct conflict with that guidance.

For what it's worth, California state officials are now in Florida doing an evaluation of operations at the parks there to see if opening safely is reasonable at this point. There has been some talk that California health officials are not confident in the contact tracing at the parks in Florida to really know if community spread is occurring at the parks, and they don't trust the parks themselves to report accurate data, so they're going to do their own evaluation.

Last edited by GoliathKills,
Jeff's avatar

You can't contact trace tens of thousands of guests, but you can monitor outbreaks among employees. The bottom line is that there hasn't been any. If there was, you can be sure the unions would make a lot of noise about it, and they've said as much.

California isn't acting on data or the current science.

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eightdotthree's avatar

Gavin Newsom is turning out to be a text book example of government overreach that Republicans talk so much about. I love California. I love LA. I am a lefty even though some of my friends might call me a Conservative now-a-days. He needs to listen to the science and what his health officials are telling him.

I just read that Newsom is sending a team to Florida to see how WDW is handling pandemic operations. Maybe there is some reason for optimism for my California friends.

Newsom is listening to the guidance from health officials like Dr. Grant Colfax, not just making these rules and restrictions up out of thin air. Opening the parks would go directly against the household gathering guidelines, and also send the wrong message. California hasn't been perfect through all of this, but I'd much rather have my state put public health above reopening nonessential amusement parks. One other note I'd make is that Newsom is fairly moderate in terms of California state politics.

Are youth sports being played in California right now?

I'm not sure I understand the correlation between household gatherings and amusement parks. Gathering under a roof where there isn't any entity responsible for enforcing social distancing and other protocols seems far different than going to a commercial establishment (in this case one that is largely outdoors) where you have employees, security, etc responsible for making sure people are wearing masks, social distancing, etc.

I'm heading to Epcot on Saturday and I suspect I will be just as safe, if not safer, than when I've gone into my church or to just about any retail outlet. If my family doesn't feel safe I can assure you we won't be staying long. But, I've talked to a number of friends who have been back to the parks since they reopened and their "trip reports" have been very positive.

Some youth sports have been permitted since July 30, as long as they meet certain guidelines. It also varies depending on what county you live in. Only this month have municipal playgrounds reopened, which I think could have happened earlier.

Reopening amusement parks invites people from different households to get together in one place. If this was just about walking down the midway, that'd be one thing. Going to these parks also involves using public restrooms, dining, and other elements of activities that put you in close proximity to other people. Plus, being outside isn't some sort of miracle that stops the spread, especially if there are a lot of people around. I imagine this is one of the things state health officials will be looking for at the Florida parks.

In my opinion, a big part of what it's come down to is that nonessential travel and gathering is discouraged. I'd be hard pressed to say that a trip to Disneyland or Great America is essential. Florida has one of the highest infection rates of any state in the US, while California doesn't. I think it's pretty safe to say that to some extent the guidelines, which has included closed amusement parks, have worked. We probably could have done better. Florida certainly should have done better.

Last edited by GoliathKills,
Jeff's avatar

But Florida's problem is most certainly not the theme parks. Walk around any public area in any part around Orlando that is not inside of a theme park and you'll see what I mean. Heck, come to my neighborhood and see the pool parties and barbecues. The parks can and do enforce the safer behavior that the science backs up as effective, and no one else does. The height of the infection happened while the parks were closed.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

ApolloAndy's avatar

I'm kind of split here. There isn't really evidence that theme parks specifically are the source of Florida's massive problems, but the permissive regulation in Florida almost certainly is. It may be the case that, in isolation, opening theme parks itself wouldn't lead to transmissions in either guests or staff, but opening theme parks means lots more people travelling, staying in hotels, eating in restaurants and also signals to the general population (mistakenly) that "if Disneyland is open, why can't I have a bunch of friends over?" It's not like opening theme parks is a totally isolated event. It serves as a signpost to the wider culture and Disneyland especially is a major travel destination and a major symbol.

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

If Disney being open is a sign to the rest of America that we can let our guard down then let's revisit the President of the United States all but making fun of people wearing masks over the past 7 months. If you really wanted to discuss cause and effect then let's backtrack to January or February when he told Woodworth how bad this really was...but didn't tell anyone else.

Your point, Andy, about traveling is a fair one. As we plan our trip up to Orlando we have chosen to stay at a condo hotel instead of a regular hotel as we feel we can limit interactions more in that setting. I'm also planning our drive up differently to avoid driving through the more rural part of the state (which I prefer generally) because I know they are less vigilant about mask wearing in places like Okeechobee. We will likely avoid all indoor dining as well. But to Jeff's point yes...I believe Disney has a vested interest in doing everything possible to keep my family safe and is likely being more aggressive about it than any other entity.

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