California Theme Parks Group Rips Newsom Over "Unreasonable" Disneyland Stance

Disneyland March 14 2020

"We don’t anticipate in the immediate term any of these larger parks opening until we see more stability in terms of the data," the governor said earlier on Wednesday.

The California Attractions & Parks Association on Wednesday afternoon blasted Gov. Gavin Newsom after he said earlier in the day there was "no rush" to reopen theme parks, specifically Disneyland, amid the pandemic.

Newsom made his comments during a press conference when he was asked about Disney chairman Bob Iger recently resigning from the state's coronavirus economic task force.

"It didn't come as a surprise to me at all. There are disagreements about opening a major theme park. We're going to let science and data make that determination," Newsom said. The governor added that he understood the "frustration" from the Walt Disney Co., but he will not budge on Disneyland. "We are going to be stubborn about it," Newsom said.

CAPA said that stance was unacceptable and pointed to Disney's success with reopening Walt Disney World in July.

“We find it disconcerting that Governor Newsom has no planned timeline for issuing guidance for theme parks, and of great concern that he does not anticipate theme parks opening soon," CAPA executive director Erin Guerrero, said in a statement. "Each day that parks are closed further decimates the amusement park industry. The Governor’s 'no big rush' approach is ruining businesses and livelihoods for thousands who could responsibly be back at work."

Guerrero continued, “When the Newsom Administration agreed not to finalize draft guidance that was floated last week, the governor’s staff committed to work with the theme park industry. We hoped their commitment to working with us was genuine, that we’d finally work diligently and collaboratively on guidance to allow amusement parks to responsibly reopen within a reasonable timeframe. We agree that science and data should guide safety decisions, but keeping amusement parks closed indefinitely when there are no known outbreaks being traced back to reopened amusement parks worldwide is unreasonable."

Disney’s chief medical officer also criticized Newsom's stance.

"We absolutely reject the suggestion that reopening the Disneyland Resort is incompatible with a 'health-first' approach," Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pamela Hymel said in a statement. "The fact is, that since March we have taken a robust science-based approach to responsibly reopening our parks and resorts across the globe. Our health and safety protocols were developed in consultation with epidemiologists and data scientists, and after considering guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and experts in local government and health agencies. All of our other theme parks both in the United States and around the world have been allowed to open on the strength of our proven ability to operate with responsible health and safety protocols."

Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences & Products, made clear in September that the company was impatiently waiting for word from the state about a plan to reopen. Furthermore, he said then that failure to agree on terms would result in consequences, such as impacts on the local economy and staff reductions. Then 28,000 layoffs were announced.

CAPA on Oct. 1 urged the governor to not finalize a draft of the reopening guidance CAPA apparently previewed. “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,” the association wrote in a statement. “We ask the governor not to finalize guidance for amusement parks before engaging the industry in a more earnest manner, listening to park operators’ expertise, and collaborating with the industry on a plan that will allow for amusement parks to reopen responsibly while still keeping the health and safety of park employees and guests a top priority.”

The specifics about what is in the plan that CAPA took exception to remains unclear.

Said Newsom Wednesday, “We don’t anticipate in the immediate term any of these larger parks opening until we see more stability in terms of the data. We feel there’s no hurry to put out guidelines, and we continue to work with the industry."

7:12 p.m.: Updated with comment from  Disney’s chief medical officer.