California legislators introduce bill to hasten Disneyland’s reopening

California Assemblywomen Sharon Quirk Silva, D-Buena Park, and Suzette Valladares, R-Santa Clarita, introduced a bipartisan bill aimed at hastening the reopening of Disneyland, which has been shuttered since March, and other California theme parks.

“Now, more than ever, we need to strengthen our resolve to care for each other and to create clear and proper tiers to ensure the safety and health of our community and businesses,” said a statement from Quirk-Silva, chair of the Assembly Committee of the Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media. 

“Through collaboration with industry leaders, responsible and safe tourism can be used as a pathway to recovery,” Quirk-Silva said. The California Attractions and Parks Association (CAPA) announced its “strong support” for the bill, “AB 420,” in a statement Thursday.

The bill proposes to move larger theme parks, including Disneyland, to California’s orange tier, which is one of the benchmark levels for reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The tiers signify COVID-19 risk level for the counties in which each business operates. The classifications include purple, which signifies widespread risk, red for substantial risk, orange for moderate risk and yellow for minimal risk.

The new bill goes against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which doesn’t allow larger theme parks to reopen until the county in which each park is located reaches the yellow tier. 

In the orange, or moderate, tier, there must be fewer than four new daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people and a less than 5% rate of positive tests over seven days. In the yellow, or minimal, tier, there must be fewer than one daily new case per 100,000 people and a less than 2% rate of positive tests over seven days.

Under the guidance, only “smaller parks can open with modifications” in counties in the orange tier, and “capacity must be limited to 25% or 500 people, whichever is less.” Smaller parks can hold 15,000 or fewer visitors.

Most of the state – including Orange County, where Disneyland is, and Los Angeles County, where Universal Studios is – remains in the purple tier, the highest, which means the parks have a long way to go until they can reopen.

Disneyland is outside Quirk-Silva’s district, but as chair of the committee, she has taken an “active role” in addressing tourism and entertainment concerns in the area, Josef Michael Holper, Quirk-Silva’s communication director, told USA TODAY.

The bill was introduced “to ensure that our theme parks throughout California are being treated equally,” Holper said.  

Since so many California businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic, he said, Quirk-Silva “felt it is imperative that we do our best in assisting our large tourist attractions and provide them with the opportunity to recover and assist our economy.”

This isn’t the first time that officials in the state have attempted to persuade the governor to consider reopening the theme park sooner.

In November, the mayors of eight California cities pushed Newsom to consider allowing large theme parks such as Disneyland to reopen sooner than the state guidelines allow. The letter was signed by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, along with the mayors of Anaheim, Santa Ana, San Jose, San Diego, Bakersfield, Riverside and Fresno.

Disney’s parks division has struggled amid the COVID-19 pandemic and has laid off tens of thousands of employees in the midst of the crisis. 

Before Thanksgiving, the company revealed about 32,000 workers would lose their jobs in the first half of the 2021 fiscal year. That figure included 28,000 staffers Disney said in September it would lay off from its parks division. 

USA TODAY was unable to reach Newsom’s office for comment.

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Contributing: Curtis Tate

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