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California Was Supposed To Release Guidelines For Reopening Theme Parks Friday. That Didn't Happen.

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The Nighttime Lights at Universal Studios' Hogwarts Castle. (Hamilton Pytluk/Universal Studios Hollywood)
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As recently as Thursday, the governor’s office said that long-awaited theme park reopening guidelines were expected to be released Friday. But that's not happening.

Theme parks like Disneyland and Universal Studios can’t reopen until the state issues COVID-19 health and safety guidelines for how they can reopen — right now, there are no rules they can follow in any of the tiers.

The state appeared ready to release those guidelines today, but the theme park industry wasn’t happy with their draft and pushed back, delaying the release further.

Industry representatives say the state needs to be more reasonable.

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"While we are aligned on many of the protocols and health and safety requirements, there are many others that need to be modified if they are to lead to a responsible and reasonable amusement park reopening plan," California Attractions and Parks Association executive director Erin Guerrero said in a statement. "Fighting this virulent disease and responsibly reopening amusement parks to get people back to work, kickstart local economic recovery, and provide families with outdoor activity need not be mutually exclusive."

Conversations with industry representatives are ongoing, according to state health officials.

"Our Blueprint for a Safer Economy is driven by data and science to keep the risk of COVID-19 transmission low, and this upcoming guidance will be no exception," California Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in a statement. "Given the size and operational complexities of these unique sectors, we are seeking additional input from health, workforce and business stakeholders to finalize this important framework — all leading with science and safety."

The stakes are high. Just this week, Disney announced the layoffs of 28,000 Parks employees in California and Florida, including some part-time, salaried, and executive employees. The company partially blamed the layoffs on California's "unwillingness to lift restrictions."

Disney had called on the state to let Disneyland and California Adventure reopen in a video update last week. Walt Disney Company Chairman Bob Iger also left Gov. Newsom's economic recovery task force, following the announcement of the layoffs.

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State lawmakers from both parties sent Newsom a letter earlier this week asking for theme parks to be allowed to reopen. They noted that theme parks operate largely outdoors.

The guidelines had previously been delayed for months following Black Lives Matter protests and a rise in COVID-19 cases.

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