Back in June, it looked like Disneyland Resort would be open to the public by mid-July. However, a spike in COVID-19 cases caused the state of California to pull back on reopening plans and Disneyland stayed close. In recent days it appeared that the state was once again warming up to the idea of reopening theme parks in the state. Guidelines were reportedly in the works and close to being complete. And while theme parks reportedly had some issues with the state's initial draft, it still seemed like parks would be open sooner, rather than later. However, based on some recent comments from California Governor Gavin Newsom, reopening now seems a little less likely.
Yesterday, during a press conference (via KCRA), Governor Newsom was asked about the theme park situation, and, while many of his previous statements have been that guidelines would be coming soon or that the process was moving forward, he now says that he's in "no hurry" to reopen theme parks. According to Newsom...
We’re going to be led by a health first framework and we’re going to be stubborn about it. That’s our commitment. That’s our resolve. While we feel there’s no hurry putting out guidelines we’re continuing to work with the industry.
This is a much different tone than the Governor has had in recent weeks. It previously seemed like reopening was "when, not if" and now it feels much more like "if, not when."
While Governor Newsom says that he's continuing to work with the industry, it's fairly clear that work isn't exactly friendly. When Disney announced a massive layoff of cast members from within the Parks, Experiences, and Products division, it specifically called out Disneyland's continued closure as part of the reason the layoffs were necessary. Bob Iger, the Executive Chairman of the Walt Disney Company, who had been part of the state's task force on reopening, left the group just before the initial guidelines were presented to theme parks, and when theme parks themselves asked the state not to release them, it was clear that the guidelines had some stipulations that the parks felt would be a problem.
This now feels like the Governor's response to the theme parks pushing back on the initial guidelines. Whatever changes the parks like Disneyland might want to see, the Governor is trying to make it clear here that he isn't necessarily going to give them what they want. If he feels that what the theme parks are asking for is incompatible with a "health first framework" then he's not going to approve it.
Disney Parks responded quickly to Governor Newsom's comments, stating that Disney parks have shown they can be responsible with safety protocols and thus should be able to reopen.
Last week I would have said theme park reopening guidelines would be here by next week and while that might still happen, it certainly feels less likely now than it did then. And even if guidelines are released soon, there's no guarantee that the parks will entirely approve of them. We could see guidelines released that still result in parks like Disneyland remaining closed for some time. There's a clear battle happening between these two sides and it doesn't look like it will be ending any time soon.