Walt Disney Co. officials added their voices to a chorus of politicians, business owners and tourism industry leaders Tuesday to press California‘s governor to let Disneyland and Disney California Adventure reopen, vowing to adopt specific health precautions to help protect guests from the COVID-19 pandemic.
If allowed to reopen, Disney officials suggested the Anaheim parks would add hand-washing stations, offer attendance by reservation only, add a team of designated employees to enforce face-covering requirements, mandate temperature checks for all guests, expand the use of mobile food ordering and put stickers on the ground to remind parkgoers to keep their distance from one another.
“We are offering technology solutions that make it easier for our guests to minimize contact and maintain physical distancing,” Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney parks, experiences and products, said in a video presentation that included comments from several Disney park officials. “Help us reopen. We need guidelines that are fair and equitable.”
D’Amaro and officials from Disney parks in Orlando, Fla., noted that Disney’s Florida parks reopened in July with many of the same health and safety precautions and suggested those measures helped keep COVID-19 cases on the decline in Central Florida.
Health officials have been skeptical of such assurances, saying it is difficult to determine whether the virus is spread in a theme park because so many parkgoers return home to other states and countries after their visit.
Disney’s online presentation echoed a news conference last week by Orange County mayors, business owners and tourism industry leaders who urged Gov. Gavin Newsom to adopt guidelines to reopen Disneyland, Disney California Adventure and Knott’s Berry Farm, saying the parks’ closures six months ago has devastated a local economy that relies heavily on tourism. That push came the morning after a coalition of California theme parks, including Disneyland and Knott’s, also urged the state to provide a pathway to reopening.
The governor’s office has said it is working to adopt guidelines for reopening theme parks statewide but has offered no timeline.
D’Amaro and Disney officials also made the point that similar precautions were adopted for the reopening in July of Downtown Disney, the shopping district adjacent to Disneyland. To limit crowds in the shopping district, Disney workers have blocked cars from entering the parking structure and used a virtual queueing system when lines for stores get too long.
“Though we remain nimble and shift our operation as needed, we are taking a deliberate thoughtful approach here in Downtown Disney,” said Patrick Finnegan, vice president of California Adventure Park and the Downtown Disney district.
There are a few differences between the Disney parks in Florida and those in Anaheim.
Since 2013, Disney’s Florida parks have offered guests the use of a Magic Band, an electronic wristband with a microchip that can be used in place of park tickets, to open hotel rooms and to make purchases without coming in contact with a Disney worker.
Disneyland does not offer the Magic Band in Anaheim, but Disney officials noted that they launched a virtual queueing system last year for the opening of the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge expansion in the Anaheim park. It’s a technology that Disney representatives say can be expanded to other attractions to limit capacity and encourage physical distancing.
Also, Florida’s Walt Disney World, with four separate theme parks, encompasses nearly 25,000 acres, making physical distancing easier. The Disneyland Resort, including the shopping district and three hotels, covers about 500 acres.
Still, D’Amaro argued that about 80,000 jobs in Anaheim and surrounding cities are dependent on the reopening of the theme parks.
“The longer we wait, the more devastating the impact on Orange County and the Anaheim communities and the tens of thousands of people who rely on us for employment,” he said.
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