California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state’s theme parks have to remain closed for now — a stance that has put him at odds with park owners like Walt Disney Co. and some legislators.
“We’re going to be led by a health-first framework and we’re going to be stubborn about it,” the governor, a Democrat, said at a press conference Wednesday. “We don’t anticipate in the immediate term any of these larger theme parks opening until we see more stability in terms of the data.”
California, home to the original Disneyland and Comcast Corp.’s Universal Studios, is among the last the states to reopen its theme parks. Florida began letting them reopen in June, and Disney parks from Shanghai to Paris have also opened their doors to the guests after closing for several months this year due to the coronavirus.
Disney said last week that it is laying off 28,000 U.S. employees, roughly one quarter of the workforce in its resorts division. The company said the move was “exacerbated” by California’s shutdown.
An association of amusement-park operators in the state pushed back on proposed state rules that would have limited their guests to a 120-mile radius of the properties, among other restrictions. Mark Ghaly, the state’s secretary of health and human services, said California was continuing to review its guidelines, which he originally planned to release last week.
While California is home to the most U.S. virus cases, its outbreak has significantly improved since a surge in infections over the summer. The state’s average rate of positive tests over the past 14 days fell to 2.6% on Wednesday, the lowest since the pandemic began.
Disney Executive Chairman Bob Iger stepped down from a state reopening task force last week, in part due to frustration over the continued closing of parks.
Iger’s move “didn’t come to me as a surprise at all,” Newsom said Wednesday. “There were disagreements in terms of reopening a major theme park.”