On Saturday, a group of Disneyland cast members and fans rallied in front of Disneyland in Anaheim, calling for Governor Newsom to allow Disney to reopen the park.
Disneyland has been closed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Improving conditions and new methods of social distancing led to Disney announcing the parks reopening in July, but a new wave of cases in late June ended any hope of a summer reopening. However, rising demand from fans and the release of financial reports showing that the company was losing billions in part because of theme park closures led to a renewed attempt in August.
The California Attractions and Parks Association (CAPA) sent out a dire letter to the Governor last month, painting an even bleaker future for theme parks and the tens of thousands of employees who work for them. The Governor ignored the letter, causing many companies to mass-layoff employees. Disney was among them, laying of 28,000 employees in both California and Florida. This caused the state to finally buckle down and start to work with the parks for new reopening guidelines.
By October, draft reopening guidelines had been written, with California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly announcing that parks would be opening “as soon as possible” in the state. However, Governor Newsom announced the very next day that reopenings would be halted for at least the near future due to health concerns. Parks, employees, and fans alike denounced the decision, leading to the rally on Saturday.
“[Governor Newsom] needs to release the guidelines now. Not tomorrow. Not next year. Now,” exclaimed Rita, a furloughed cast member who attended the Anaheim rally. “We all got it when COVID-19 first hit, for sure. But now we’re hurting, Disney is hurting, and look, the fans are hurting. We can social distance correctly and we now know how to keep safe during the pandemic.
“The only solution is to reopen responsibly.”
A large contingent of people at the rally were also calling for the recall of Governor Newsom for, among other reasons, refusing to allow the theme parks to reopen.
“I began the year kind of being proud of voting for Newsom,” said Rachel Riley, a Disneyland fan who also attended the rally on Saturday. “I didn’t think he was that bad.
“But then came COVID-19. Restrictions were fine at first, but then he just kept refusing to open the park. Florida opened up Disney World, and other states allowed their parks to open up. But California remained pigheaded about it. What really got me, and many other fans here today, was Disney having to layoff so many of these people last month and Newsom not even blinking an eye at it. He says he cares, but by not even entertaining the notion of guidelines or allowing a tentative schedule to be written after Disney and the state worked together on something, it’s just incredibly frustrating.
“And you see that here today. Most of us have never done something like this before, coming out in support in a rally like this. But I guess this is just a year of firsts like that.
“They need their jobs back, Disney needs to stop losing money, and people, average people like me, want to go enjoy a day there. And we know the right safety protocols now. The solution is so obvious.”
Despite progress made this week toward reopenings, such as California officials visiting Disney World in Florida to see how they reopened safely and Disney working with employee unions on what to do once the park does reopen, major changes on guidelines or reopenings have yet to be made.
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