California theme parks must stay closed for now, Newsom says

Visitors at Disneyland in March
Visitors at Disneyland on March 13, the last day before the theme park closed because of the pandemic.
(Amy Taxin / Associated Press)

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that California theme parks have to remain closed for now — a stance that has put him at odds with park owners such as 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 told reporters. “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 states to reopen its theme parks. Florida began letting them reopen in June, and Disney parks from Shanghai to Paris have also opened to 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.

Disney’s blunt criticism of coronavirus restrictions is putting more pressure on Gov. Gavin Newsom and health officials at a critical moment.

Oct. 1, 2020

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. Dr. 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.

On Wednesday, the same trade association blasted what it called Newsom’s “‘no big rush’ approach.”

“Each day that parks are closed further decimates the amusement park industry,” Erin Guerrero, executive director of the California Attractions and Parks Assn., said in a statement.

Although California is home to the most U.S. coronavirus cases, it’s far from having the most cases per capita, and its outbreak has significantly improved since a surge in infections over the summer. The state’s average rate of positive tests over the last 14 days fell to 2.6% on Wednesday, the lowest since the pandemic began.


The latest maps and charts on the spread of COVID-19 in California.

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.”