Disneyland President Ken Potrock and other theme park executives have blasted the state of California over its strict reopening rules, contending that state officials have been unwilling to collaborate.
“We believe that we’ve proven that we can responsibly reopen,” Potrock said. “We continue to prove all over the world that we have reliable protocols that protect the safety of our guests.”
Potrock appeared at a Wednesday news conference, a day after the state of California set tough guidelines for reopening Disneyland and other large theme parks in the coming months. California’s director of health and human services, Dr. Mark Ghaly, announced on Tuesday that large California theme parks will be able to open at 25% capacity when their counties reach the lowest “yellow” tier — assigned when daily new cases are under 1 per 100,000, and positive testing for COVID-19 is under 2%.
Currently, only nine of California’s 58 counties are in the yellow tier. Orange County, home to Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm, is currently in the “red” or substantial tier. Los Angeles County, home to Universal Studios Hollywood and Magic Mountain, is in the highest “purple” or widespread tier.
Potrock said the state is ignoring the impacts of anxiety and joblessness, adding, “There has to be a much greater back-and-forth dialogue. The goal line keeps moving.”
“We’re not getting a solution-oriented discussion,” Potrock asserted. “We’re getting: Here’s the rules and you have to live with it.”
The event was organized through the California Attractions and Parks Association. Erin Guerrero, executive director for the trade group, did not dismiss the notion of legal action against the state by saying in response to media questions, “All options are open at this point. Our No. 1 goal is to be allowed to reopen. At this point, any option is viable.”
In recent weeks, Disney has been harshly critical of California for its reopening regulations, which are part of Gov. Gavin Newson’s policy of taking a “stringent and slow” policy to letting businesses resume. Disney announced on Sept. 29 that it was laying off 28,000 employees, two-thirds of whom are part-time, due to the pandemic’s impact on Disneyland and Walt Disney World, and blamed the state on California’s “unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen.”
The event included comments from Karen Irwin, president and COO, Universal Studios Hollywood; Kurt Stocks, president, of Legoland California Resort; and Raffi Kaprelyan, regional vice president, of Cedar Fair, operators of Knott’s Berry Farm, California’s Great America, and Gilroy Gardens.
Irwin said it would not be possible for Universal Studios Hollywood to open before 2021 under the current guidelines. She said large theme parks should be allowed to open when a county moves into the “orange” or moderate tier, which is the second-lowest with a positivity rate of 2 percent to 4.9 percent and growth in new daily cases of 1 to 3.9 per 100,000.
Stocks said state guidelines for theme parks are inconsistent with those for zoos, museums and aquariums. “We want the administration to treat us the same as industries of a similar nature,” he added.
Theme parks have been shuttered since mid-March. California health officials have recorded 887,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 17,000 deaths in the state.