Will Disneyland Reopen this Year? New California State Requirements

Will Disneyland Reopen this Year? New California State Requirements

Just last week we shared an enormous slate of activities that were occurring all of which were keeping Disneyland from reopening. Finally, the State of California has created new conditions. Those criteria if played out will probably mean that Disneyland will not open this year, possibly many months to come. We will look at these new tiers and conditions, we’ll identify those implications, take a look at how the State of California may have erroneously come to this conclusion; how Disneyland and others have responded to the news, and what its implications might be for Walt Disney World in Florida.

But let’s start from the beginning. You can find our podcast here on PodbeaniTunesSpotifyMyTuner, and ListenNotesKey notes, photos and links are below, but you’ll find most of my commentary on the podcast.

New Conditions by State of California to Reopen

The state of California has declared that Disneyland and other major theme parks can reopen at 25% capacity, but it must reach Yellow on a color tier offered by the state. This is the least restrictive level, and requires that that the number of new daily cases and that the positivity rate of those tested be significantly lower than what it currently is.

Orange County is now at the Red Tier or Tier 2. It has some 4.6 new cases per day per 1000,000 people with a 3.2% positivity rate.

San Diego County is at the same tier. This is labeled as “substantial.” But all other counties in the area are at the purple tier. This is also labeled as “widespread”. It’s much harder in a megalopolis like Los Angeles for one county to get its numbers down when other counties with traffic moving freely from one part to another is still at a higher level.

Perhaps a key issue is that you have to be at one shade consistently for 3 weeks before you can earn the next tier.

Conditions by State of California for Theme Parks When They Do Reopen

Let’s look at the conditions required when theme parks do open.

Theme parks are noted as being different than stadiums.

By the way, only Orange County residents will be permitted into Disneyland when it reopens. Probably it will extend to other counties that share the same tier, but doors will not be open to people outside the state any time soon. It makes me wonder if they will have the same expectations of Cast Members. Technically, executives like Bob Iger or Bob Chapek, living outside of Orange County should not be allowed to enter.

Smaller theme parks with lower capacities can reopen at the Orange or Tier 3 level. These are parks that have a normal capacity of 15,000, and are allowed to reopen at 25% capacity.

By the way, it was Gahly who shared the news, not Governor Newsom. Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly talked about visiting with “theme park operators to understand what the plans were, how those plans might guide our own decision making…We also had the opportunity to send a small team to some of the other parks in other parts of the nation and they came back with lots of valuable lessons, some of which we were very reassured by, they were great, management of how lines were managed, keeping separate groups apart while in a line while on a ride–really great lessons learned there. But also some things that raised concerns–the level of mixing even without masks, that seemed very random and concerning to us. So those different areas of information were really assimilated and guided us as to where we landed with this guidance.”

He then notes the “significant impact on surrounding sectors whether that’s the hotel, the hospitality industry, restaurants, other retail in the community. People may keep their guard up while they are in a theme park but when they are milling around the community they may let their guard down, and that may be just enough to create outbreaks and transmission risks that California just doesn’t want to see.”

So in truth, there is little that Ghaly reports that he has trouble with regarding Disney. His largest issue is the surrounding area around Disneyland, where tourists will congregate before and after they visit the parks. But most of these places aren’t even on the table for immediate re-opening, because when Orange County goes Yellow, it will only allow those within the county, or adjoining counties that are also Yellow.

Disneyland & Others Respond

Ghaly started those same remarks by saying: “I just want to say a personal note of thanks on behalf of all of us in the state working with industry leaders, labor leaders, communities, understanding what the different factors are that go into these very important businesses so that we can assure that our guidance is really leading California with science and data as it relates to theme parks.”

Yet has California sought out industry leaders on this subject? No one seems to be in alignment with him. Disneyland stated today:

“We have proven that we can responsibly reopen, with science-based health and safety protocols strictly enforced at our theme park properties around the world,” said Disneyland Resort president Ken Potrock. “Nevertheless, the State of California continues to ignore this fact, instead mandating arbitrary guidelines that it knows are unworkable and that hold us to a standard vastly different from other reopened businesses and state-operated facilities. Together with our labor unions we want to get people back to work, but these State guidelines will keep us shuttered for the foreseeable future, forcing thousands more people out of work, leading to the inevitable closure of small family-owned businesses, and irreparably devastating the Anaheim/Southern California community.”

The Coalition of Resort Labor Unions, which originally opposed Disneyland’s July Reopening, has had a change of heart, letting the governor know that Disney was listening to its employees and could demonstrate that it can operate the parks safely.

Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu shared the following:

Erin Guerrero, Executive Director of the California Attractions and Parks Association or CAPA provided a response as well:

To say today’s announcement on theme parks is disappointing would be a grave understatement. The Governor has not used science or data to inform his decision. Theme parks have opened and operated safely around the world for months. Data and science prove that theme parks can operate responsibly anywhere – there is no rational reason to believe they can’t do so in California. No one cares more about park employee and guest safety than the parks themselves.

“Let me be unequivocal– the guidance issued by the Newsom Administration will keep theme parks shuttered for the foreseeable future. By forcing amusement parks to stay closed until their home county reaches Tier 4, the Governor has issued a “Keep Theme Parks Closed Indefinitely” Plan which will devastate California’s major theme park industry.

“Responsibly reopening amusement parks on a reasonable timeline can and should be done while we fight this pandemic – the two are not mutually exclusive. California’s theme parks and their phenomenal workforce are ready to reopen responsibly. Parks’ loyal guests are ready and the communities and local governments surrounding the parks are ready. We urge Governor Newsom to revise this guidance to allow for a reasonable and responsible reopening of California’s signature theme park industry in Tier 3.”

How Orlando & Florida Compares

If Florida were to go with the same color code and its attending requirements, how would it fare?

Florida just added more than 3,600 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. Over the last week, Florida has added an average of more than 3,000 new coronavirus cases a day, which is the highest number since labor day. Additionally the 6.17% new case positivity in that same report is the highest in nearly two months.

If Florida were California, would parks would be shut down? Not exactly, because the trend is really toward South Florida, not Central Florida. However, Central Florida’s numbers have also risen, but “still not a bad number” according to Dr. Raul Pino, the state’s top health officer in Orange County Florida. He states that “as long as we hover around 5 percent [positivity], it is a number we can handle. Currently Orange County’s rolling 14-day average rate of positive tests was 5.3% on Monday, higher than in previous days and weeks.

There’s Much More!

Thanks for joining us. Make sure you check out the following:

Disneyland Political Scrimmage

Just last week our post and podcast caught up on everything that is happening around Disneyland’s Reopening. Be sure to catch it all, including how Senator Elizabeth Warren from Maine has suddenly weighed in on Disney.


It’s where we take best-in-business ideas from the “Happiest Place on Earth” and help apply them to your business organization. Visit DisneyatWork.com


It’s our place for videos and more at my YouTube channel J. Jeff Kober.

J. Jeff Kober

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *