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Larger Theme Parks Like Disneyland Can't Reopen Until Coronavirus Numbers Are Stable

Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Disneyland, California. (Chava Sanchez/ LAist)
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California Gov. Gavin Newsom today provided more detail on when theme parks might reopen.

The short answer: not anytime soon.

The more complicated answer: larger theme parks aren't the same as smaller ones, so they may be treated differently.

Newsom addressed the issue during the question period at a news conference to announce a new climate initiative.

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Word that reopening guidelines are not imminent, comes a week after Disney announced laying off 28,000 employees from its parks in California and Florida, as well as the news that Disney Chairman Bob Iger had quit the governor's economic task force — not surprising given the delays in guidelines.

Newsom first thanked Iger for his support and insight during the pandemic as part of that task force.

"There's disagreements in terms of opening a major theme park — we're going to let science and data make that determination," Newsom said. "I understand ... the frustration that many business leaders have that they want to move forward, sectorally, to reopen. But we're going to be led by a health-first framework, and we're going to be stubborn about it."

Newsom said that officials feel "there's no hurry" to put out reopening guidelines, but that they're continuing to work with the theme park industry. He also noted that the question of reopening amusement parks is more complicated than just whether Disneyland should be open.

"Amusement parks aren't just Disney. You've got all kinds of amusement parks, including smaller parks that are out there in 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," Newsom said.

He added that the situation is complex, and that officials don't anticipate parks like Disneyland opening anytime soon.

"These are like small cities, small communities, small towns. But we don't anticipate in the immediate term any of these larger theme parks opening until we see more stability in terms of the data," Newsom said.

Theme parks have previously proven to be a potential place where infectious disease can spread, with people coming together in large numbers from many different communities. There was a large outbreak of measles traced to Disneyland in late 2014 through early 2015. There were also several cases of people suffering from measles who visited the park last year, potentially exposing others — though there were also concerns about visitors to Universal Studios.

Two weeks ago, Disney officials made a public plea for the parks to be allowed to reopen. For now, that's not happening.

Even ahead of Disney's massive layoffs, the shutdown of the parks already has had a devastating impact on local economies. The delay was soundly criticized by the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce. President Todd Ament released this statement tonight:

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"Does anyone believe this Governor is making decisions based on science and health care anymore? He said that he would issue theme park guidelines soon. Then he said they would be very, very soon. Now he says they will NOT be issued anytime soon? There is no science and health care behind this. There is no rational explanation for having guidelines for zoos, museums, beaches, schools, parks, bowling alleys, indoor dining, outdoor dining, but not theme parks. What he is doing, is destroying Anaheim."

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