Walt Disney Co. executives urged Gov. Gavin Newsom to allow the Disneyland Resort parks to reopen following strict COVID-19 safety regulations at a press conference on Tuesday.
Disney officials said they would enforce precautions such as: hand-washing stations, mandatory face-coverings, reservation requirements, increased sanitation, temperature checks, physical distancing stickers and the expansion of mobile food ordering.
"We are ready, and more importantly… it is time,” said Josh D’Amaro, chairman for the Disney parks.
Disney warned about the economic impacts if the parks were to remain closed. D’Amaro said the parks provide 80,000 regional jobs, many of which have not worked during the pandemic. Thousands of employees remain furloughed, said Patrick Finnegan, vice president of California Adventure and Downtown Disney.
"I encourage you to treat theme parks like you would other sectors, and help us reopen," D'Amaro said. "The longer we wait, the more devastating the impact will be to Orange County and the Anaheim communities, and to the tens of thousands of people who rely on us to reopen."
Disney is also making an effort for staff to have easy access to COVID-19 testing in their local areas.
As of Sept. 8, Orange County has remained in the red tier of California’s COVID-19 ranking system, which allowed for many operations to reopen with modifications. Under this level, theme parks must still have their operations closed.
Despite forced closures, Knott’s Berry Farm has been partially open since July with its dining establishments open and rides closed off to the public.
While its theme park has not reopened, the Downtown Disneyland District has been open since July 9.
Many petitions have circulated the internet with goals to reopen the Anaheim parks, as well as petitions for the parks to delay reopening.
A cast member had collected a list of online signatures in late August asking Newsom to resume the park’s regular business due to many employee’s need for work.
Reopen OC Now, a campaign launched by Orange County leaders, also aimed at Newsom to issue theme park health and safety guidelines as a chance to reopen safely, in addition to reopening the entire county, according to a press release.
Sarah Castro, a fourth year communications student at Cal State Fullerton, said she does not feel safe returning to work in spite of wanting to do so. Castro said the restaurant she works in at the park, the Tiki Juice Bar, is small and would not allow her to social distance from her coworkers.
“It was really abrupt and random, obviously no one expected this to happen,” Castro said. “It’s nice, because I’m not working and I can focus on school but it sucks because I’m not working.”
Castro said given the option, she would remain at home if the parks were to reopen. However, if she did not have that opportunity then she would return because she would lose her unemployment income if she refused work.
“Obviously I like Disneyland. That’s why I work there. It sucks that it's closed, but I’m glad because it seems like the last place that should open right now,” Castro said.
Daniel Diaz, a second year mechanical engineering student, was a pass-holder and frequently visited the resort pre-pandemic. He said it is reasonable that the park has not opened, because it can be the perfect hub to the spread of the virus.
“If I did go, I’d be very cautious touching anything at all,” Diaz said.
Diaz said that the 3.5 million square feet of the park has a lot of contact surfaces, therefore reopening the park would be irresponsible.
“Considering how many people entered the park daily, it would be very difficult for even Disney, a financial powerhouse, to reduce the risk of spread on all rides throughout the park,” Diaz said.