California Theme Parks May Stay Closed For A Year, Say Mayors Of California’s Largest Cities In Letter To Governor Gavin Newsom Protesting His Coronavirus Restrictions

Tom Tapp
·4 min read

On Monday, the mayors of California’s largest cities sent a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom imploring him to “modify” his stringent reopening guidelines for large theme parks. The missive said the governor’s requirements “would effectively keep parks closed indefinitely.”

In their letter to Governor Newsom the mayors said:

The guidelines put forth by your Administration were released within the framework of prioritizing public health and safety for guests and employees. This is the right focus. However, economic and public health are not mutually exclusive goals. We are concerned that the state’s guidelines would push re-opening of large theme parks up to a year out, which would have significant negative impacts on hundreds of thousands of jobs, thousands of small businesses, and billions in operating revenue for our cities.

The letter was signed by:

• Mayor Harry Sidhu of Anaheim
• Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles
• Mayor Kevin Faulconer of San Diego
• Mayor Sam Liccardo of San Jose
• Mayor Lee Brand of Fresno
• Mayor Karen Goh of Bakersfield
• Mayor Rusty Bailey of Riverside
• Mayor Miguel Pulido of Santa Ana

The mayors are part of the Big City Mayor’s Coalition and represent some of California’s largest
cities — Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose are numbers 1, 2 and 3 in population. They urged Governor Newsom to allow large theme parks to open in Tier Three with reduced capacity, rather than in Tier Four, and asked the Newsom Administration to work with city leaders on protocols for reopening theme parks while maintaining a health-first focus.

For the past month, Newsom and large theme park operators have gone back and forth in the media over the issue.

Last week, after one letter from state legislators, another from the trade association that represents the state’s theme parks and general public outcry, Newsom finally addressed the situation.

“Self-evidently,” said Newsom, “we should be concerned about opening up large theme parks which, by definition, people mix from all possible walks of life and putting ourselves and others at risk of seeing transmission rates rise.”

Just minutes after California Governor Gavin Newsom made those remarks, the California Attractions and Parks Association, a trade group that represents theme parks, issued a response.

In it, CAPA executive director Erin Guerrero asked the governor for the data supporting his decision to treat large and small parks in the state differently.

Per CAPA:

We continue to ask the administration to share any data or science related to theme parks that they are using to inform their decision to keep the major theme parks closed indefinitely while allowing similar venues to reopen. Parks have been opened throughout the country and world for months and we have seen no data indicating that COVID outbreaks are being traced back to theme parks. If they can reopen safely in other states and countries, then why not in California?

In mid-October, California’s director of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly said that smaller theme parks can resume operations in the state’s Orange Tier. Capacity will be limited to 25% or 500 visitors, whichever is fewer. Only outdoor attractions may reopen and only to guests who are residents of the same county.

All theme parks — which includes Disneyland in Anaheim and Universal Studios Hollywood — may resume operations in Tier 4, Yellow, which is much further down the road. At that point, the guest limit is 25% across the board and indoor dining establishments can only operate at 25% capacity.

Orange County, where Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm are, is solidly in the Red Tier. Los Angeles, home to Universal Studios, is in the most restrictive tier, Purple.

Asked for a response on Monday on a midday Zoom call about the governor’s plan, Los Angeles County Health Director Barbara Ferrer told Deadline she had not read the mayors’ letter. (To be fair, it was released as she spoke.) But Ferrer did voice appreciation for Newsom.

“I do want to thank the governor and the governor’s staff and the local health departments,” said Ferrer, “that are trying to balance the needs of our economy with health concerns.”

Asked specifically about the governor’s plan Ferrer said, “I’m really glad to have a plan that allows us to focus on community spread.”

Rather than criticize Newsom’s actions, “I’d really like everyone to concentrate on getting our rates down,” said Ferrer. “It’s impossible to imagine how we could reopen late theme parks when we have an increasing case rate.”

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