Disney presses California for guidance on reopening Disneyland

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Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, during a video update on the company’s operations during the coronavirus pandemic. D’Amaro removed his mask after explaining he was filming alone in Disney California Adventure Park.
Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, during a video update on the company’s operations during the coronavirus pandemic. D’Amaro removed his mask after explaining he was filming alone in Disney California Adventure Park.

Disney officials are pushing for guidelines to reopen the company's theme parks in Anaheim, Calif., which have remained shuttered for some six months due to the pandemic while other Disney parks around the world have reopened.

"To our California government officials, particularly at the state level, I encourage you to treat theme parks like you would other sectors and help us reopen," said Josh D'Amaro, the chairman of Disney Parks, Products and Experiences. "We need guidelines that are fair and equitable so we can better understand our future and chart a path towards reopening. 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 for employment."

D'Amaro made the plea during a video update on the company's operations through the coronavirus pandemic, which aired Tuesday. He was joined virtually by other Disney executives.

Disney was forced to close its theme parks earlier this year to help quell the spread of Covid-19. First were its Asian parks in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo, followed by its domestic parks and Disneyland Paris in March.

The parks began reopening to guests with Shanghai in May. New policies and procedures, like diminished capacities to encourage social distancing and mandatory face coverings, were put in place and have been tweaked since as more is learned about the virus. Parks in Tokyo, Paris and Orlando opened in July. The Disneyland Resort was initially supposed to open its parks in mid-July, as well.

However, an uptick in local Covid-19 cases delayed California's release of guidelines for reopening theme parks, said Patrick Finnegan, vice president of Disneyland's Disney California Adventure Park and Downtown Disney District (Downtown Disney has been open since July 9).

Recently, California introduced a four-tier system with criteria for when and how business can reopen, Finnegan said.

"While none of the state's four tiers addresses the reopening of theme parks, we continue talking with the governor's office about how we are adapting our business and the success we've had at our Disney properties around the world," he said. "We are ready to open, and we are hoping we will have guidance from the state soon."

Finnegan said the park's closure doesn't just affect the Walt Disney Co. and its employees.

"We know this prolonged closure has been an especially trying time for the thousands of cast members who remain furloughed, along with so many businesses in our local community who rely on us as an economic engine in the region," he said.

D'Amaro echoed Finnegan, calling the Disneyland Resort a "critical part of the economy" in Anaheim and Orange County, Calif. It employs "tens of thousands" and generates business for local businesses.

"In fact, nearly 80,000 jobs rely on Disneyland's operations, with the vast majority of those people not working today due to the parks' six-month closure," D'Amaro said.

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