California has resisted reopening much of its economy, however, this week that all changed as California approves reopening Disneyland and other theme parks.
Disney California Parks Shut Nearly a Year
It’s been nearly a year since paying guests have walked through the gates of Disneyland theme parks in California. Before states (and countries) had mandated the closure of facilities, Disney announced pre-emptively it would shut all theme parks of their own accord. Some areas in which the Disney parks operate added additional restrictions. California has been the strictest of those locations.
California currently is performing well with regard to the virus though it’s no secret that Governor Gavin Newsom has come under pressure and threat of recall with unrest in the state growing.
Disneyland Can Reopen
While other areas have reopened (all except Disneyland Europe), California was last to allow any resumption of activity. On March 18, 2021, Disney will offer a “Touch of Disney” event and have rehired 1,000 of the 10,000 employees that were let go due to the closures caused by COVID-19 regulations. That brings Disney staff on the west coast back to 22,000 from an original 31,000 person staff.
On April 1st, Disneyland Resort and other theme parks may reopen with the admittance of up to 15% of their capacity. That reopening date is a fairly short turnaround for the parks that have lost/dismissed employees but limited crowd size could help. The new regulations will allow for thousands of people to return to the parks but estimates suggest that daily limits will max attendance at 12,000/day as opposed to the 80,000 capacity at Disneyland for example.
Method of Reopening
There’s good news in Gov. Newsom’s restrictive order. The Southern California parks (including Six Flags Magic Mountain, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Knox Berry Farms for example) have a path toward increasing their park attendance. As the LA Times points out, 15% is not sustainable for any of the parks but this method could be a far smarter approach for businesses than Florida’s model.
In Florida, Governor DiSantis allowed parks to reopen first from 0 to 25% then 35% then fully open based solely on his office’s recommendation. The California method, however, allows theme parks to reopen based on county-level infections per 100,000 people. There’s a far clearer path to when and at what capacity parks can reopen based on this guidance. The tiers are as follows:
- Stay-at-home order (blue tier): Regions w/ ICU capacity below 15%
- Widespread outbreak (purple tier): Counties with 7+ daily new cases per 100,000 residents or higher than 8% positivity rate
- Substantial (red tier): 4-7 daily new cases per 100,000 residents or 5-8% positivity
- Moderate (orange tier): 1-3.9 daily new cases per 100,000 or 2-4.9% positivity
- Minimal (yellow tier): Less than 1 daily new case per 100,000 or less than 2% positivity
Disneyland in Anaheim currently falls into the red tier and has the ability to reopen with limited capacity from April 1st. That said, Disneyland and California Adventure have not shared an opening date and remain closed for the time being.
There’s no question that cast members would be tasked with keeping guests socially distanced. Disneyland California parks will be a less concentrated experience than its counterparts in Orlando which is now already up to 35% of capacity and has the approval to restore prior capacity unabated though they’ve so far decided against doing so.
California theme parks from all brands have had a particularly tough time given California’s additional regulations. That said, Disney, even when given the all-clear, may not go back to even 35% let alone 100% capacity. Mickey and company have made it tougher on themselves than rival parks as Annual Passes have been discontinued in part for Florida and wholly for California Disney properties. California’s vastly different social and political landscape from Florida will also create a divergent course whenever the parks reopen.
What do you think? Will you rush back to Disney given the opportunity? Do you think 15% admittance is too cautious?