Today, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly — speaking on behalf of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s office — reiterated that the administration still considers theme parks to be at a “high risk” for COVID-19 transmission.
While Dr. Ghaly did not address theme parks specifically in his presentation, he did share, again, what types of activities are considered to be riskier and are recommended to be avoided. In the above screenshot from today’s California news conference, high-risk activities are defined as:
- Activities where it is difficult to mask the whole time (i.e. eating and drinking)
- Activities where you see people you haven’t seen recently (i.e. people outside your household)
- Activities where it is difficult to keep your distance (i.e. multiple people at a small table)
- Activities of a longer duration
- Activities that don’t allow for plenty of fresh air to circulate
The majority of these — save for the circulation of fresh air, since theme parks like Disneyland largely operate outdoors — could be said to apply to theme park and amusement park properties.
Dr. Ghaly stated:
“The virus is not over just because we’re tired of it. It doesn’t, itself, put its guard down. It looks for opportunities to spread. And many of those activities that we highlighted as higher-risk are exactly the opportunities for spread that we want to be laser-focused on, invite all of you to be our partners once again, and try to reduce risk so we reduce transmission, flatten the curve again, and make sure that we can soon enjoy many of the things that we’ve missed over the last several months.”
Governor Newsom’s theme park reopening guidelines require the counties where parks are located — Orange County in the case of Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park — to reach the state’s “minimal” COVID-19 yellow tier prior to reopening at 25% capacity.
This week, it was noted that no counties in the state of California are moving to a lesser tier as coronavirus cases have seen an uptick in many areas throughout the state. Governor Newsom shared yesterday that officials are especially concerned about private gatherings where people may be inclined to remove masks and engage in other moderate- to high-risk activities.
Disneyland officials, for their part, have continued to reiterate that they believe The Walt Disney Company has proven its ability to operate theme parks safely in a pandemic, specifically citing Walt Disney World Resort in Florida as a success story.
Blueprint For a Safer Economy update.
Dr. Ghaly also addressed concerns related to California’s Blueprint For a Safer Economy:
“We talk about not just loosening restrictions through the Blueprint, but, when needed, tightening. So we believe California has a framework that is going to help us get through the next many months, but we evaluate it constantly. A number of counties asked us to look at their data, to take into account certain conditions in their county as we think through that. But certainly because there’s generally more transmission, more community transmission, we are certainly quicker to work with our counties to make sure that we don’t miss a beat.
And if a county does need to go in a more restrictive tier, we do that in a timely way to make sure transmission doesn’t get away from us, and we’ve seen it before where little bits and little bits of transmission increases, end up resulting in quite radical and what some people call exponential or high rates of rise transmission, which is exactly what we want to avoid statewide.”
The fact that California government officials are constantly monitoring the metrics they are using to determine reopening tiers means that it would, in fact, be possible for Orange County to be moved into the yellow tier — getting the green-light to reopen Disneyland Resort — and subsequently have to re-close the theme park property again if Governor Newsom moved the county back to the red or purple tier.
Economic health vs. public health.
One of the primary concerns Disney fans, Disneyland Cast Members, and Walt Disney Company executives have had throughout the California Disney Resort’s lengthy closure is financial.
Disney has, after all, already laid off 28,000 Cast Members between Disney World and Disneyland — and, unfortunately, furloughed many more.
When asked about considering economic health vs. public health when deciding on metrics to reopen California, Dr. Ghaly stated:
“We often, from public health, we think about it not just as health in the strict sense or COVID health, we do think about it very broadly. And a number of us believe and see evidence that working to control the transmission of COVID, making sure that it doesn’t have the horrific impact in California that we’ve seen in other parts of the nation and other parts of the globe, is protecting not just our public health in the narrow sense but our broad sense of public health which includes our economic health.”
The doctor also addressed a question about business owners who are concerned about having to permanently close their doors. Dr. Ghaly said that the way people behave in everyday life — social distancing, wearing a face covering, etc. — will ultimately dictate how quickly all industries get back to some sense of normalcy.
The California Health and Human Services Secretary specifically said:
“We want to continue to work with all Californians including our business owners and our small and large businesses across the state to ensure that together we act, do these simple things, keep as much of our economy going, while we ensure that transmission rates are lower.”
From today’s update, it is clear that Disneyland Resort shouldn’t expect to reopen its theme parks anytime soon. It is also apparent that California officials aren’t scared to continue keeping Orange County — including Anaheim — and other counties throughout the state in highly restrictive tiers until certain metrics are met.
The good news for Disneyland fans is that Buena Vista Street will begin its partial reopening, for holiday shopping and dining, on November 19 as an extension of the Downtown Disney District. Will you be going?