California state officials visited the Disneyland Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood this week as Gov. Gavin Newsom mulls issuing guidelines to allow the major theme parks to reopen.
The news comes amid the push-and-pull between the state and theme parks, which are lobbying to reopen with new health and safety measures in place — just like their Florida counterparts, which successfully reopened over the summer.
“We were grateful for the opportunity to share our enhanced health and safety protocols with state officials, including representatives from GO-Biz and the California Department of Health, earlier this week. We are hopeful this brings us closer to a positive resolution on behalf of our entire industry,” a spokesman for Universal Studios told The Hollywood Reporter.
As for Disneyland, a company official confirmed state officials also toured the theme park. No additional specifics were offered. Disneyland had already implemented new health and safety recommendations from the Orange County Health Care Agency.
Newsom — who was not among the group that toured the parks — said Monday that he was sending a team to the Florida parks to gather impressions about how the popular destinations are operating amid the pandemic. He did not mention the SoCal visits at that time.
The battle to reopen the parks reached a boiling point last month when Disney drew a line in the sand and essentially demanded Newsom offer a path to reopening. The governor did not budge. Shortly thereafter, Disney announced it was laying off 28,000 employees (mostly from Disneyland, but also a portion from Disney World), and Disney chairman Bob Iger resigned from the state’s economic coronavirus task force. Again, Newsom seemed to shrug off the development, saying during a routine press conference he was not “surprised” Iger resigned. During that same presser, he said there was “no hurry” to reopen the parks.
Disney and the California Attractions & Parks Association were baffled and quickly blasted Newsom for being “unreasonable.” It was after that exchange that Newsom appeared to slightly soften, announcing staff would visit the Florida parks. Around that same time, Disney CEO Bob Chapek also criticized the state while a guest on CNBC’s Closing Bell.
“It seems to me that the guidelines that are set up by the state of California are more stringent than any state across the country,” said the exec. “If you look at the history of Disney and what we’ve been able to do during the reopening — rather than arbitrary standards set up without regard to actual fact — and what we’ve been able to do as a company, I think you’d come to a different decision about reopening Disneyland.”
Thus far, there have been no known cases of COVID-19 linked to the Florida theme parks.