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Disneyland’s reopening troubles explained: Here’s when the theme parks can reopen

Disneyland’s reopening troubles explained: Here’s when the theme parks can reopen

Disneyland California

Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, California, has been closed since March 2020.

Corinne Reichert/CNET

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For the first time in its 65-year history, Disneyland announced it would close its gates for an entire month in 2020. Due to the spread of COVID-19, the iconic California theme parks shut down on March 12 — and have remained shut. Ever since, we’ve all been wondering when Disneyland can open, and why it hasn’t while Disney’s other global theme parks were free to reopen, including Walt Disney World on the opposite coast of the US.

Disneyland initially announced an optimistic reopening date of July 17, its 65th anniversary. But it was forced to backtrack on those plans in late June, when California refused to issue theme park guidance.

“We have no choice but to delay the reopening of our theme parks and resort hotels until we receive approval from government officials,” Disney Parks tweeted at the time.

So when can Disneyland reopen?

California finally revealed its theme park reopening guidelines on Oct. 20: The state will allow large parks like Disneyland to open only once the county they’re in is in the “yellow,” or minimal, tier of COVID-19 transmission, meaning Orange County must have less than one daily new case of coronavirus per 100,000 people, as well as less than 2% of tests coming back positive.

For now, Orange County is still stuck in the red tier, with “substantial” spread of COVID-19. At present, it has 5.1 new cases per day per 100,000 people, with a 3.2% positive rate on test results.

Disney protested the strict rules, calling them “arbitrary” and “unworkable.” Disneyland President Ken Potrock said the company has proved it can open responsibly. “The state of California continues to ignore this fact,” he said. “State guidelines will keep us shuttered for the foreseeable future … irreparably devastating the Anaheim/Southern California community.”

But California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said Oct. 20 he does “believe that it is possible” for Orange County to reach the yellow tier, pointing out that San Francisco County has already done so. Ghaly added it’ll take hard work, constant vigilance, widespread testing and contact tracing.

Disneyland reached an agreement with 11 unions representing its workers as of Oct. 14, according to The Orange County Register, so that it can be ready to open immediately. The California Health and Human Services Agency reportedly sent state health officials to assess Disney World in Florida during the first week of October, the Los Angeles Times reported.

What will Disneyland look like when it reopens?

Once Disneyland does reopen, park capacity will be limited to 25% and reservations will be required. Plexiglass has already been installed in the park entry points.

Smaller theme parks — those with a total capacity of 15,000 people or fewer — are permitted to reopen once their county reaches the orange or “moderate” tier, but they’ll be capped at 25% attendance or 500 people, whichever is less; only outdoor attractions can be open; reservations are required; and only locals can attend.

Downtown Disney is already open

If you can’t get by without a little taste of Disneyland magic, the Downtown Disney shopping and dining area reopened July 9 in line with California’s restaurant and retail opening guidelines. 

Its operational hours are restricted to 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; only the Simba parking lot is open; guests with a temperature of 100.4 Fahrenheit or higher aren’t allowed in; hand sanitizer and hand-washing stations are present throughout the area; all guests must bring and wear their own masks; and there are ground markings for social distancing. Capacity is also restricted inside stores and restaurants.

Disney said on Oct. 23 that it’s also extending the Downtown Disney shopping and dining district into the main street area of California Adventure theme park, stretching from Buena Vista street up to the Carthay Circle lounge.

Why was Disney World allowed to reopen?

Disney was able to reopen the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom on July 11, with Epcot and Hollywood Studios soon following on July 15. It was permitted to do so by Florida’s less-strict state and local guidelines.

The Orlando Disney parks have social distancing and wellness measures, including temperature screenings, wearings masks, keeping guests six feet apart while lining up for attractions and a guest reservation system to limit capacity. Fireworks have also been suspended.

Disney Springs shopping and dining area reopened on May 20 with limited parking, fewer entrances, temperature screening before entry, masks required, physically distanced lines and barriers, reduced hours, no entertainment and more sanitization and disinfectant. Disney-owned stores and restaurants in Disney Springs began reopening May 27.

Layoffs across the US theme parks business

Vacationers aren’t the only ones affected by Disneyland’s continuing closure — Disney announced on Sept. 29 it will lay off 28,000 US employees, assigning the blame on reduced capacity at its theme parks due to social distancing requirements, as well as California’s “unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen.” 

“We have made the very difficult decision to begin the process of reducing our workforce at our Parks, Experiences and Products segment at all levels, having kept non-working cast members on furlough since April while paying healthcare benefits,” Josh D’Amaro, Disney Parks chair, said in a statement. “Approximately 28,000 domestic employees will be affected, of which about 67% are part time.”

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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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