As we have reported earlier, the state of California postponed releasing their theme park guidelines after the association representing Disneyland, Six Flags, Legoland, and Universal Studios, raised public objections and requested more input before finalizing the reopening requirements. This raised a lot of questions regarding the content of the guidelines California were prepared to release. We now have a better idea what some of the sticking points were.
It has been reported that California’s draft reopening guidelines included three requirements (among others):
- They must operate at 25% capacity,
- They must initially limit guests to people living within a 120-mile radius of each park, and,
- The theme park can only reopen once their county reaches the “minimal” risk level, which is considered least-restrictive.
The capacity restriction was anticipated and has been used at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. As we reported earlier, the state of Florida actually lifted this requirement, but Disney has since maintained limited capacity.
Limiting visitors to a 120-mile radius of the park was reported earlier in the week and it is unclear how Disney has responded to this requirement. Since this was not a mandate that WDW had to abide by, there are no examples of exactly how Disney would enforce this. The requirement would definitely be complicated for both Disney and guests and it would leave a lot of guests unable to enjoy the parks initially. However, the intent of the requirement is clear, public health officials are concerned that guests visiting the park from other states and counties will bring COVID-19 into the local community.
The first guideline is expected and easily applied. The second guideline could lead to confusion, but would also be applied fairly easily. The real problem comes from the third requirement.
It is being reported that the association representing the southern California theme parks is really fighting the third requirement. It mandates that the county where the park exists must hit the “minimal” risk level before opening. The minimal tier is part of a multi-tiered COVID-19 threat guide created by the state based on trends of new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. The minimal tier is a very high bar to clear. It would be nearly impossible for a county to reach this level anytime soon. This has led many to speculate that if this mandate remains in the guidelines, the parks won’t even begin to reopen for months. There is also the issue of a county’s status going to least-restrictive and then back to a higher threat level. Does this mean parks can reopen and then must close back down, in a repeated cycle? This would not be conducive for the successful operation of such a large business like Disneyland.
The theme parks would like to contribute their expertise into the decision making, explaining to the State that many of the same goals can be met with guidelines that make more sense for the industry. It was a notable move when California withheld their reopening guidelines to meet with the theme parks. This was a show of unity and good will from both parties, in a battle that has seemed to crumble in on itself.
The DisInsider will be following this story very closely and will report on any new developments as they happen.